We had a very positive meeting on 19th January at the Jacobs Wells Baths to hear the results of the First Stage Feasibility Study commissioned by the Central, Clifton and Harbourside Neighbourhood Partnership to inform the long-term future of the building.
There were at least 30 of us there including local neighbours, John Bos, Community Buildings Officer, Councillor Jerome Thomas from Clifton Ward and Councillor Mark Wright from Hotwells and Harbourside Ward. We also had representation from the Jacobs Wells Traders and new faces including experts who had contributed to the survey.
We gave very special thanks to Helen Bone from Vivid Regeneration who carried out the Study for her amazing work in completing such a comprehensive report full with ten clear recommendations for action.
Helen shared how she had spoken with organisations in Bristol who had said that Bristol was dance-impoverished with a lack of rehearsal and performance spaces. [The previous tenants at the Baths were Bristol Community Dance Centre who offered a programme of dance for 30 years until 2016.] The survey results showed Dance as the most popular request for future use of the building but with the recognition from some respondents that this may need to be combined with other uses to make it financially viable. Next most popular requests were for Community Use and then Performing Arts.
Other possible uses mentioned briefly at the meeting were music, film shoots, youth centre, making a feature of the natural spring and a well-being centre. The main studio has excellent acoustics and good sound insulation so could work well as a music venue – there is nothing much between Colston Hall and pubs as venues currently. The feeling was to keep the venue structure as flexible as possible to allow a variety of uses and to be inclusive of all ages and abilities in relation to dance and other activities. See page 43 and onwards of the full feasibility report for more ideas that were contributed in the survey.
380 people in total came to the Open Doors Afternoons. 230 people filled in the online survey. This is an amazing result and shows how important the building is to all of us and how we all wish it to thrive and want… “A vibrant, accessible and inclusive nationally and locally acclaimed hub for dance, performing arts, wellbeing and community development”.
We wish to thank everyone who completed the survey, stuck post-it notes on the wall during the consultation drop in days or gave their input in any other way. Having such a comprehensive assessment of what the community wants (and does not want) for the future of the building will also be massively helpful in any funding applications.
Future of the Building
The Feasibility Study identifies four possible options for Bristol County Council in relation to the Baths:
- Dispose of the building on the open market
- Dispose of the building (ringfence for not for profit organisations delivering social benefit – Dance, Arts, Community
- Lease the building on a Community Asset Transfer at a Peppercorn Rent.
- Set up a trust and lease the building to the new trust.
Number 3 is the recommended option. The Community Asset Transfer process would mean the building freehold would be retained by the Council, and a long lease would be granted to an organisation that can deliver what the community have clearly asked for in the feasibility study. An event would be organised for organisations who might be interested in taking on a lease. Expressions of interest would then be evaluated by a panel at Bristol Council with input from the community and the winning applicant would be invited to submit a full business plan. Anyone wanting to express interest is welcome informally in the first instance to contact Sally, Heather and Judy at email@example.com . If the council decides to proceed with this option, relevant documents about the property would be made available for download on the Bristol City Council website.
You can access Helen’s report here:
Here is a summary of the most important recommendations from the report:
- Set up a Friends of Jacobs Wells Baths Group.
- BCC must spend money on urgent maintenance works
- Artspace Lifespace : It is felt that ASLS need funding to continue to use the building even in the short term. We hope that this will enable them to renew the lease for a further 6 months.
- Vivid have now enabled a bid to be made to the Architectural Heritage Fund for up to £5,000 for a buildings condition survey.
- An upgrade to Grade 2* listed building status should be applied for.
- Vivid’s report suggest that a Community Asset Transfer should be the preferred long term option.
- The Asset Transfer process should be started asap.
- The JWC Hub will apply to the Heritage Lottery for a really interesting project which involves young people and our heritage.
- In order to ensure success with the Community Asset Transfer BCC need to send a lump sum for urgent repairs to make the building safe and water-tight .
- Fund raising is needed for further phased works and re-development ideas.
Current Activities at the Baths
Artspace Lifespace is a charity specialising in mean time use of at risk buildings. They are permitted to use the building for dance, music, fitness, arts and community activities (including hiring out space to other groups). If you want to book space or find out more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
See here for events happening at the Baths – please support them by coming along! More events will be added shortly if they renew for a further 6 months. You can also keep up with news and events at the Baths by Liking their Facebook Page.
Friends of Jacobs Wells Baths
At the end of our meeting on 19th we invited anyone, especially those offering skills and experience, who would like to be part of a steering group to leave their name and contact details. This steering group would commit to meet once a month for 6 months to help move the process forward per the recommendations in Helen’s report. A good number of people responded but we are aware that there are probably others of you who didn’t know about or couldn’t get to the meeting on the 19th January and would like to be involved. If you are such a person or know of someone who would like to be involved in this way, please contact Sally, Judy and Heather at email@example.com
The first 3 meetings will be chaired by Cllr Jerome Thomas on a Thursday from 6.30 to 8.30pm on the following dates:
Feb 16th – venue: private residence – please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details
March 23rd – venue tba
April 20th – venue tba
Also for anyone interested in the future and current use of the Baths, please join our new Facebook Group Friends of Jacobs Wells Baths. For those not on Facebook, there is also a Friends of Jacobs Wells Baths info page with updates and dates of meetings.
Getting the word out
It was mentioned in the meeting that not enough people know about the Baths and our mission to save them and create a fabulous, multipurpose centre for the community. Please help us get the word out by doing some (or all!) of the following:
- Forward this newsletter to anyone you think might be interested – you can use the Forward icon at the bottom if sending to just one person or share our mailing list signup link http://eepurl.com/cm0Krn
- Joining and encouraging others to join the Friends of Jacobs Wells Facebook Group
- Liking the Jacobs Wells Baths Centre Facebook Page and sharing their Events.
- Share the Events on the Artspace Lifespace website
- Raise awareness about the Baths and their future by sharing our info page
- Share our posters (once they’re made!)
- Talk to people
- Send us your ideas – email Sally, Judy and Heather at email@example.com
- Subscribe to our YouTube channel and share the videos – there’s one below:
Local resident Malcolm Hussey-Yeo shares with Judy his experience of using the Baths as a young boy:
We will be applying for grants for major amounts needed but are currently working with zero budget, so if you would like to make a donation to help support the Baths project financially, please contact Sally, Judy or Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org