The group intends to convert Windsor Road United Reformed church in Barry into a much-needed medium sized arts and community venue. It will be a Cultural Centre for the Arts and Welsh language, at the heart of the Vale. The aim is to represent the cultural needs and aspirations of all people in the Vale, and it will be a completely independent community enterprise. A place where people come together.
At the start of 2010 Dot Connell was organising a concert and couldn’t think of a better venue in Barry than Porthkerry Road Methodist Church. The church, along with the Windsor Road United Reformed Church across the road, were unoccupied and for sale, prior to the two churches moving to new purpose-built premises on the Waterfront.
So in February 2010, Dot Connell and Tim Pearce (one of the founding committee of Menter y Fro, the Vale’s Welsh language promotion agency) proposed buying Porthkerry Road Methodist Church with a view to converting it into an Arts, Community and Welsh Language Centre.
A number of people were canvassed for advice regarding building and funding issues. Peter Mosely, an architect familiar with the building, gave advice regarding conversion opportunities. Jane Hutt AM was very supportive and gave some useful advice and pointers for funding.
An informal public meeting was held in the church on Thursday the 25th of March. Copies of the conversion planned in the 1990′s were available, and the well-attended meeting discussed various options and futures for the building.
This informal meeting led to a smaller and slightly more official meeting being held at the Vale Civic Offices on April 1st – not the most auspicious date for an inaugural meeting! At this meeting it was agreed to form a committee to promote the plans, and a secretary (Dot Connell) and treasurer (Tim Pearce) were elected. At this stage there was a lot of discussion as the new committee fleshed out what they were proposing.
A week later, the first formal committee meeting was held, and Ashley Brown was confirmed as chairman. One of the most important decisions was that we would form a “Community Interest Company” to manage the scheme. Various funding and artistic programme ideas were discussed. It was also agreed that the name of the group would change from the unofficial “Porthkerry Conversion Group” to “Canolfan Porthceri Centre”.
The project so far had one major problem – the church was for sale, with approval for redevelopment as apartments. As a result of this, it was imperative that funding be pursued that would allow us to buy the church before it was sold to a third party, and an outline proposal for lottery funding was a priority.
It was also agreed that the idea of the centre as proposed was more important than the actual building. While our intention was to redevelop the Porthkerry Road Church building, if it was sold, then we would seek other premises.
As a result of these pressures, a number of meetings were held over the following weeks, including “fact finding tours” of the Chapter Arts Centre and The Gate, both in Cardiff.
Since then this website has been created, and a simple questionnaire was created and circulated to get outline direction for the centre. A slightly modified version was then created and published on the website, allowing responses to be captured more easily. A request that people give us their thoughts was published on our Facebook site, and this resulted in many questionnaires being submitted.
The group held a Consultation Evening on Friday 13th August 2010 at the Indycube co-working space in HTV studios to attempt to better understand the ideas of potential uses of Canolfan Porthceri Centre, and to test out ideas that were put forward by questionnaire respondees.
The Consultation Evening was well attended with all ages and broad interests in attendance, and the event was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Attendees included representatives of the dramatic arts, painters, sculptors, photographers, musicians, and dancers. There was unanimous support of the idea of establishing the Canolfan Porthceri Centre and the ideas put forward will help confirm the direction we take, and are especially useful for the further development of the Lottery bid outline proposal.
Work by the Lottery Bid Sub-Group on our application for assistance from the Big Lottery Fund (People and Places) continued. Following input from the Consultation Evening, they aimed to share a final draft of the bid with the full committee by the middle of September, with the aim of formal submission to the Lottery Commission before October. However, informal feedback from the lottery indicated our final bid was not in a priority area for support, and in light of the recently announced regeneration funding for Barry, it was decided to switch our focus there.
August also saw our Chairman, Ashley Brown, being taken away from Barry by his Army duties. This resulted in a game of “musical chairs” for the committee, and a “change of hat” for Dot Connell, who now becomes committee chairman.
Thanks to the co-operation of the Methodist Church, we were able to run our first big events. The Faure Requiem was on 5th September, and was a great debut performance. “Voices of Partition”, an innovative community project based on the play “A Lifetime on Tiptoes” by Mazhar Tirmazi took place on 9th November, and PUKKA Productions presentation of “The Little Matchgirl” was in December. Our planned Christmas Fayre had to be cancelled due to snow and the treacherous conditions on Porthkerry Road, but this later resurfaced in 2011 as our “Spring Fayre”. Our final event was “With/Together & Gift” at the end of May 2011.
See our Events page for more details.
Since then Porthkerry Road Methodist Church has been “sold” (twice!), we have changed our focus to Windsor Road United Reformed Church, and have submitted a bid to the Barry Regeneration Board on that basis. See our home page for more information.
We appreciate that not everyone who is keen to see Canolfan Porthceri become a reality will be able to devote the blood, sweat, tears – and money – needed to ensure its completion, but giving us an hour of your time, expertise and advice would be appreciated.
As Dot Connell said “This is probably the biggest project I will ever be part of, but every time it seems too daunting to attempt I remember a conversation with John Stacey-Marks. He described trudging round a derelict farm on numerous occasions sharing his vision with anyone who would listen. Some people told him outright that they thought he was mad. But he stuck with his idea and his madness became the Amelia Methodist Trust” (Amelia Trust Farm).