Friday, July 24, 2015

News: Grimm makeover in Rotherham

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A former pub in Rotherham town centre is set to be brought back to life - as if by magic.

Grimm & Co, a new Yorkshire literacy charity based in Rotherham, has submitted a planning application which would enable the Town Gate pub on Doncaster Gate to be converted into a "fantastical, high quality, unforgettable retail experience."

Grimm & Co works around the region and aims to unlock imaginations, engage, enthuse and inspire children and young people in the literary arts. Rothbiz featured the innovate project last year as its aims to create a fantastical retail destination in Rotherham to inspire children to work without knowing they are working, and increase participation in literacy projects through a creative writing and mentoring centre.

The freehold of the building went up for auction with James A Baker in 2014 and the charity identified it as the ideal location for an apothecary "supplying sorcery services and unnatural products to magical beings."

The idea for Grimm & Co was inspired by the Dave Eggers' 2008 TED Talk on people engaging with local schools, the work of 826 Valencia that he established in San Francisco (a Pirate Supply Store), and the Ministry of Stories in London (Hoxton St. Monster Supplies).

In each case, the shop is a fa├žade, and although they sell products, like any other, it is all part of creating a fantastical destination. The story behind Grimm & Co (Graham Grimm was a Yorkshire businessman, born 1148, just before lunchtime, who spotted a gap in the market), and the ideas for products to sell (everything from magic wands to dealing with heartburn for dragons), have been developed by leading literary figures including Jeremy Dyson, a non-acting member of the League of Gentleman and co-writer of the West End play, Ghost Stories.

As well as providing the engaging environment, the proceeds from the shop help to fund the work going on upstairs in the former Disraeli's pub where interactive whiteboards will replace dartboards and writing desks will replace pool tables.

Deobarah Bullivant, who is leading the project and secured the "licence" to open the concept in Yorkshire, was keen to bring it to Rotherham having worked successfully on Inspire Rotherham, the first time that the regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward, had agreed to major funding for a project which supported business and regeneration in the future by helping raise basic skills and aspirations.

Deborah said: "When I went down to London I was asked if I'd considered locating in Leeds or Sheffield. I knew Sheffield would be great but it has lots of stuff already. If you go into the city, you know you can access the arts, and people know about it. Rotherham needs this. We have lots of great things going on in town but not many people know about it. Having Grimm & Co at the bottom of the High Street is something really positive for the town."

The project could also provide a regeneration boost for the town centre as Deborah explained: "Certainly all the other centres across the world have added to their area and are now surrounded by things like arts spaces and book shops. When I show people from those centres what we are planning here in Rotherham, they are jealous of the building and space we have got."

A recent "Write for a Bright Future" conference put Rotherham together with similar projects from Syndney, Belfast and Stockholm along with Dave Eggers, the founder of 826 National. The offers of future visits, collaboration and working together flowed, much like back in Rotherham.

As work on the building got underway this week, it was staff and apprentices at Wilmott Dixon who gave up their time to begin the transformation of the former pub (pictured). Sheffield legal firm, Wosskow Brown has been working on the lease; local design firm Side by Side has been working on the design concepts and branding whilst Metal & Dust create the look with bespoke furniture. Over 50 staff from Interserve Learning & Employment have been working on various aspects of the project through the company's "Give a Day of Your Time" initiative. Templeborough manufacturing firm, AESSEAL has put forward a pot of money and Airmaster's resources director Lisa Pogson joined the board of the charity.

"We still need more" says Deborah. "I'm learning how to fill in planning forms, apply for building regs, deal with leases and ask people to do something for nothing. I used to be a headteacher and sometimes wonder what I've got myself into."

With a band of volunteers ("we need more of those too") the project is ensuring that activities for children are kept free. Income from selling products (online and in Rotherham) and creative ways for people and businesses to donate, helps to pay for materials and workshops. For example, supporters are able to hand over cash for titles - "Lord of Never Ending Stories" and "Protector of Appropriately Placed Apostrophes" are available.

Bullivent added: "We are able to secure some funding from the council's vitality grants scheme for the shop fit out, and being a charity helps with rates, but it's a drop in the ocean really. We desperately need support from local businesses to get behind this exciting project for Rotherham. We need something that our children and young people can be proud of and we need the business community to make sure this is."

As momentum gathers towards a potential opening later this year, the project has been made the chosen charity for the upcoming local conventions, WOSCON and Yorkshire Cosplay, where staff and volunteers will be at the events raising their profile and possibly leaking secrets about the new building.

Did I mention that Wilmott Dixon are having a secret door made and that Aldwarke-based Tech Spray Ltd are working on a slide in the shape of a beanstalk?

Grimm & Co website

Images: James A Baker / Grimm & Co

2 comments:

Mr me July 24, 2015 at 12:30 PM  

Another sad day another pub going,be waste of time soon going into town for a pint,be ni night time economy,makes you wonder if thats what council want?

Roy Herbert July 27, 2015 at 12:46 PM  

That pub will not be missed, always just a few people in at most, lovely building being put to better use IMO !

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