It’s time to dust off the dicky bow and fasten on the fascinator; my partner and I are off to the wedding of the decade! How have we got an invite to the Royal event? Connections, bribery, blackmail? Nope. We’ve been invited to the royal nuptials because of Carlisle Undercroft – a social enterprise project we started in 2017.
As an opportunity to distract myself from panicked suit-searching, I’m going to tell you about how we received our invite, our social enterprise project, my experiences as a Durham student, and how you can help us continue our work (*cough* – we’re crowdfunding).
The Royal Appointment
The story of our invite is one of mystery and suspense. It was my partner Kimberley who first learned that we were on the royal guest list after she received an unusual call from an unknown man towards the end of March.
The curious caller suggested that we keep the 19th of May free and that we should keep an eye on the post. That was it. No more information. No more context.
Excited, confused, assuming a practical joke, we waited for the post, for weeks, and then came a Hogwarts style letter from the Lieutenancy of Cumbria, crest and all.
The letter cited our ‘strong work within the local community’ as the reason for the invite. Specifically, this references the Carlisle Undercroft project and the work that we both do to keep it running.
Carlisle Undercroft – A Royally Recognised Project
Carlisle Undercroft exists to transform a derelict, historically significant space under Carlisle Train Station into a multipurpose community arts venue. My partner, Kimberley Watkin, began the project after working in the space with Carlisle-based community arts group Dance Ahead. Recognising its outstanding potential, Kimberley was inspired to renovate the site into a home for community art for Carlisle and its surrounding regions. After graduating from Durham in 2016, I was brought on-board.
In my share of the Carlisle Undercroft workload, I have drawn on the skills, interests, and ambitions that I developed whilst at Durham.
As a Durham music student, I was encouraged to explore my passion for performance art and developed a desire to work as an arts professional. Through a module titled Arts Management, ran by professionals from the nearby Sage Gateshead, I learned how to write successful funding applications and marketing strategies that have been invaluable in the Carlisle Undercroft’s development.
Through the Durham Award, I learned to appreciate the personal developmental value of the extra-curricular activities that I participated in. I worked as a producer on opera productions for the Durham Opera Ensemble and fulfilled the role of Treasurer for two consecutive terms.
My Durham experience has made the difference within my role in the Undercroft project.
Carlisle Undercroft – Progress so far
The progress we have made with this project, which is huge and at times overwhelming, is heartening. We have raised £10,000 through grants, secured support from national organisations such as Virgin Trains and the Railway Heritage Trust and forged meaningful relationships with community groups and institutions.
Working with Cumbrian architecture firm 2030 Architects, we have a clear renovation plan for the venue and are in the process of securing the legal consents needed to kick-off building work –the fun stuff.
Fancy a brick?
Once we’re ready to go with all legal consents in place, the only thing that’ll hold us back is the simple matter of money – £150,000 to be exact. Though we’ve secured part of this funding the project’s success, will rely on donations from the public. And… yes… that’s where you, dear Durham reader, can help if you can.
We’ve launched a crowd-funding page so that any kind person, any royalists, can donate any amount, large or small.
For those who donate £50 or more, you will receive a personalised brick on the venue’s wall of thanks. The first brick on this wall will be dedicated to the Royal Couple in gratitude for our invite to their wedding.
Post-Plugging Sign Off
We are very proud of our invite; it recognises a lot of hard work and passion. We can’t wait to visit the grounds of Windsor Castle and to experience such a great day.
Thank you for reading and thank you for distracting me from outfit searching.
Look out for my next blog about the big day!