Background to the Project
The Project was initiated in 1981 by a group of local people, in response to a lack of adequate community provision in the Hebden Bridge area, particularly for young people.
The aims quickly grew to encompass other disadvantaged groups, including older people, unwaged, single parents and people with both physical and learning disabilities.
A small group working voluntarily with young people in the town identified the need for a building which could provide a focus for various community initiatives and activities, and would be fully accessible. The lease on the rear ground floor of the Trades Club building was secured in 1981 and the original Ground Floor Centre officially opened in the autumn of 1983.
As early as 1984, the Project was running into difficulty over the shortage of space, so work commenced on building an extension which eventually housed the office, computer room, shower, storage cupboards and foyer entrance. This was completed in 1986.
The Ground Floor Project also became a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee in 1984.
During the initial years the Ground Floor Project established several area-wide projects working throughout the Upper Calder Valley (possibly the first cyber café and an innovative Tandem for the Blind scheme) as well as developing the Centre into a widely-used community resource. Initially funded by the Voluntary Projects Programme, this support came to an end in 1989. At this time the Ground Floor Project applied to Calderdale MBC who agreed to take over funding the core community provision. During the VPP period, the Project was staffed by up to nine staff, each involved in specific pieces of work. Calderdale MBC agreed to fund a full-time Centre Manager, a Community Development Worker and Resource Manager, as well as a part-time administrator and staffing to enable the Youth Club to run two nights a week. However, as staff left they were not replaced and eventually the entire Centre's positions were consolidated into just one full-time and one part-time post.
This reduction in staffing led to a change in direction for the Ground Floor and the Project went through a period of consolidation where it focused the majority of its energy into developing facilities and groups within the Community Centre.
In 1994 the Project again became active in developing a wide range of community resources serving the whole region. In partnership with other local community groups, Ground Floor was instrumental in developing a variety of independently-run community initiatives. One such was Hebden Bridge School's Out (HBSO) - an umbrella group to develop out of school provision and resources in the Upper Valley (making Hebden the first town in the UK to be able to offer comprehensive before and after school childcare provision in all its schools). Ground Floor was also a major force behind the establishment of a number of organisations. These included the Calder Valley Credit Union, a Community-led Credit Union covering the whole of the Calder Valley (now amalgamated with Calderdale Credit Union), and the Pennine Play & Leisure Library, an equipment loan scheme for people over five with special needs which included a sensory room, which was located in the Vale Centre.
In conjunction with the Charities Information Bureau and the West Yorkshire Community Work Training Group, Ground Floor successfully brought valuable training opportunities into the area. The partnership with the Charities Information Bureau resulted in the establishment of a Community Funding Point in Hebden Bridge.
We were also instrumental in helping to set up community-recycling projects such as Pennine Magpie, which continues to provide work experience for adults with learning disabilities, going on to become completely independent of the parent organisation in 1999, and the original Kerbside Recycling Project which followed suit in 2001.
We even created and launched the UK mainland's first local currency in centuries, the Favour in 2000.
Since 1995 the Council of Management had realised that the original centre was unable to provide all of the space and resource the Project needed and had undertaken to look at alternative premises in the area.
By 1998, despite looking at several possible locations, we were no nearer finding a home. That same year the lease on the previous centre ended and the project was unable to afford to renew.
The Project's Council of Management made the decision to move out and re-examine one of our previous choices, the old Luomo Mill on Central Street.
The Project was temporally housed in Youth House while negotiations were underway with the Mill's owners, Yorkshire Co-op. In August 1998 a lease was signed and work commenced on renovating the mill. The capital was being raised even as the work was underway. Many sleepless nights were spent as the renovation work was phased in, while waiting for money to became available. The middle floor was completed first and the Project officially moved in May 1999. Volunteers did much of the work on completing the upper floor and the heating system was only completely installed in 2001. A chair lift has now being installed for disabled access to the first floor of the building.
Today, Salem Community Resource Centre is fully operational, with the main office overflowing (despite being four times larger than our previous office space) due to the increased workload. The building is kept busy with its three halls in full use virtually every weekday night, and often at weekends too. We became an entrust registered body in 2001 to further support our environmental objectives and today a large number of local groups covering a wide spectrum of local community activity are supported by the Ground Floor Project.
We have also setup a wide range of additional resources; a web design and IT-support social enterprise company (DOT-COMmunICaTions), an IT equipment refurbishing & recyling social entrprise company (3R-iT), a rural car share scheme (Hour Car), as well as supporting the establishment of numerous not-for-profit community enterprises to further benefit the area.
Twenty-nine years on, the Ground Floor Project continues to fulfil its objectives and purpose.