Saturday, 30 March 2013

Open Meeting of 28 03 13 - Presentation and Debrief

The Bromley Arts and Community Initiative open meeting in the library on the 28th of March in Bromley Central Library was a great success, with lively debate, ideas and support for this important project. It was fantastic to see so many people making the effort to come and see what it's all about, with too many to mention offering their support after the meeting, thank you all so much. I had plenty of apologies from those not being able to attend the meeting too which was even more heartening and shows how interested the people of Bromley are in our initiative.

Below I have embedded the presentation with a few notes on developments, although we progress daily with new things happening so will of course keep you updated here and on the Facebook page

Below the presentation I have included the meeting minutes too which include all the questions put to Peter and I on the night. If you have any additions or have questions of your own please don't hesitate to email me ( and we'll answer them the best we can.

As ever if you're interested in joining a working party to help procure the Royal Bell and turn it into a community pub and arts space, or if you're interested in our project moving a pop up art gallery (in the form of a shipping container!) around the borough then please do get in touch.

Thanks so much for all the support people, this is just the beginning but dear me this is going to be exciting...

The meeting minutes are detailed below:

Bromley Arts and Community Initiative Open Meeting
Bromley Central Library 28th March 2013

Chair – Peter Martin (PM)
Secretary – Amanda Hone (AH)
Attendees numbered 87

1. Introductions and purpose of meeting
2. BACI Vision (Amanda Hone)
3. What’s been done so far and future actions (Peter Martin)
4. Questions
5. Join up!

1.       Peter Martin introduced himself and the aims of the meeting. As retired planner at Bromley Council PM was concerned about the continued lack of occupancy at the Royal Bell and its state of disrepair. He also wanted to get his teeth stuck into a project after retiring! The purpose of the meeting was to update people on developments and to promote sign up to the cause.
2.       AH introduced herself as a Bromley girl born and raised always saddened by the lack of a creative, accessible and exciting arts scene in the town. After the restaurant she used to run (Ed’s Woodfire Grill on East Street) was sold she decided to try to breathe life back into Bromley, and especially Bromley North Village, by investigating the feasibility of taking on the dilapidated Royal Bell Hotel to turn it into a community owned pub and arts space. After a lot of research and being heartened by the growing number of pubs being bought and rejuvenated by their communities around Britain she began this mission.
The presentation outlining the Bromley Arts and Community Initiatives aims should be found along with these meeting minutes, but if not please go to
3.       PM detailed some of the progress BACI had made, including winning initial support from the Plunkett Foundation (a charity set up to help communities buy buildings listed as “community value assets”), headway made with the council (including their support and initial steps to contact the lease holders about the state of the building), meetings with the Colliers International (agents between British Land and Spirit Group) and talks with potential leasers of the space, including a pub company and a Bromley Little Theatre.
4.       Questions were opened up to the floor and are detailed below:
-          Lewisham Town Hall was mentioned as a building that was left in a terrible state of disrepair for some time and was eventually knocked down and the site built on. This example differs a little to the Royal Bell because it was council owned, however PM and AH agreed that this is exactly what they were trying to avoid with the Royal Bell.
-          Had the market area behind Bromley North Station been considered as a potential for setting up a community space? PM and AH stressed that in the early stages of this project the focus would be on the Royal Bell and although there would be potential for taking on another building/site in Bromley it wouldn’t be until all avenues had been exhausted with the Royal Bell.
-          The Studio in Beckenham was suggested as a similar example of what BACI want to bring to Bromley but it was pointed out that the Studio closed down due to rising costs and significant losses. PM and AH agreed that the studio had an eclectic mix of arts based activities going on but that the building and running were Bromley Council’s responsibility. PM and AH want to be clear that this will be a project independent of the council with no money being sort to achieve their goals. With a strong business plan and a well-managed arts programme with a complementary commercial arm there is no reason why the Initiative should not make money. AH indicated various arts centres and pubs with performance and arts spaces co-existing perfectly and popularity, even in tough economic climes, is not dwindling.
-          It was asked whether BACI’s focus would be only on the Royal Bell and if it was impossible to take on, whether to change the constitution to encompass a broader remit to include other options. AH explained that BACI had been advised by the Plunkett Foundation to be as focussed and specific as possible in our constitution early on, this will show potential funders and stakeholders that we mean business with the Royal Bell and give us more credibility with the land owners and lease holders too. AH also explained that it would be easy to reconstitute at a later stage if getting the Royal Bell proved impossible to take on.
-          Various suggestions of local arts centres and theatres were offered, including one in Leith and at Eltham College. AH also told the group about a recent visit to The Forum in Norwich and PM outlined successful pub/theatres in London, e.g. The Hen and Chickens.
-          The pictures of the Royal Bell caused the most consternation among the audience and it was asked whether there was potential for dry rot in the building. PM said that locl firm Pellings had advised us that it was a strong possibility given that the water ingress had been going on for so long with no efforts had been made to rectify the problem.
-          The issue was raised concerning the rates being paid while the building was empty and PM explained that because the Royal Bell is Grade II listed the leaseholders were paying no rates to the council at all, losing them millions of pounds in potential rates revenue.
-          The question of whether the 1st floor and the stables could be accessible separately other than access through the ground floor was raised. AH said that access to the stables is completely separate but that the 1st floor was not. If the only option was to take on the 1st floor and stables while a sub-leaser went it on the ground floor a separate access would need to be arranged.
-          Funding and revenue streams were discussed and a suggestion was made to include a strong educational element to gain grants and funding. AH agreed that this would be a strong component of any activities going on at the Royal Bell and outlined the plans for the stables to be a place where this could happen with workshop and dedicated education space built in.
-          The question was asked what would happen if the ground floor commercial venture was to go bust, either if BACI owned the building or if it was being sub-leased from Spirit. AH stressed that there would be strong legal covenants that covered these eventualities and that BACI would never take on the running of the pub, it would always go to a pub company with legal liabilities.
-          Figures of how much was being asked for the building and what the leasers were currently paying was asked. PM decided it was better not to go into specific details as the figures at the moment were so inflated and not reflective of reality that it was probably better not to divulge them.
-          It was asked whether BACI could raise any funds through Bromley Councils Bromley North Development Scheme and projected Action Plan for the town if BACI were helping to improve and regenerate the area. PM and AH explained that the council were unlikely to contribute any funds and keeping the project separate from them was very important too. However there might be talks about potential of match funding if needed in the future for grants such as a Heritage Lottery Grant, but it is unlikely that they would make applying for funds from central government a priority.
-          It was asked how much BACI would be looking at to raise if they bought the building from community shares. AH made it clear that this wouldn’t be known until we knew how much we could buy the building for and how much money we would be receiving in grants. Successful Community Land Trusts have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy community value assets all over Britain though and fundraising events for these local causes have proved big money earners too.
-          AH stressed the importance of buying the building over leasing it if possible, with the legacy of the project being far greater and more substantial than a lease. This project is all about giving the people of Bromley something they can be proud of and something they have had a hand in achieving, it might be expensive and it might take a long time but having a trust that holds the building for Bromley community to use and enjoy forever would be priceless.
-          It was asked whether the legal structure of BACI had been agreed and whether people signing these support forms would have personal liability if this Initiative was to fail. PM and AH pointed out that the constitution clearly stated that we are a community looking to investigate the feasibility of procuring the Royal Bell as a community pub and arts space, although we will set up a bank account to become formally recognised the only money received into that bank account will be from funders supporting a feasibility study, no money from the public is being asked for until we have got far beyond where we are now.

5.       Everyone was encouraged to join up and support the cause by filling out the forms on their seats and handing them in. If you know people who want to sign up too please email Amanda for an electronic form.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Next open meeting!

Sorry for the long delay ladies and gents, we've been very busy but have now got a date fixed for the next meeting. So, you are cordially invited to attend on Thursday the 28th of March at 7pm in the Large Hall (4th floor) in the Bromley Central Library.

We do a presentation and get everyone up to speed on news and developments. We welcome questions and ate also looking to form a small working party after the meeting. Whether you want to join a working party or not the meeting is open to anyone who is even a little bit interested in arts, community and Bromley centric things.

We look forward to seeing you :)