Carlisle Undercroft is one of nearly 50 projects to date that has received funding from Spaces4Change, an Our Bright Future project, delivered by UnLtd. Kimberley has been working tirelessly to improve ‘Carlisle Undercroft’ and on May 19 her and her partner, Adam got the most incredible recognition for their efforts!
‘As part of a group of 1,200 members of the public who have been nominated on the strength of their contribution to their local community, you are invited to enter the grounds of Windsor castle.’ – Quote from the royal invite
You may ask how I felt when I received a letter to the royal wedding? Overwhelmed – confused – excited. But one important question, why?
Where it all began?
I was invited because of my work with Carlisle Undercroft; I decided to take my partner Adam Hughes, who has worked alongside me over the last 12 months on the project. Formerly a disused, grade II listed space underneath Carlisle train station, Carlisle Undercroft will become a multipurpose venue for cultural events in Cumbria, including performances, art exhibitions, ghost hunts and many other events.
The project began in November 2016 when I saw an advert online for UnLtd’s Spaces 4 Change programme. Spaces 4 Change funds, supports and connects young people aged 16-24 to start and run social ventures that unlock the potential of unused or under-utilised spaces for the benefit of the local community, especially young people. I had already worked in the space with Carlisle based community arts group, Dance Ahead and I wondered why the space was not used more.
I saw that Spaces 4 Change could be a perfect opportunity to buy some equipment for the space and to explore different options for the forgotten venue. I was lucky enough to receive the award and to move forward with the plans for the space and it very quickly snowballed from there. Since receiving £5,000 of funding from Spaces 4 Change I have worked with many local businesses including my architect Rod Hughes from 2030 architects. Together we have worked hard to achieve required legal consents and to set up a legal structure for the venue. We still have a long way to go and we are all working hard to raise money and create more awareness around the venue and how the whole community can engage with it.
What has happened since receiving my invitation to the royal wedding?
The awareness raising opportunities have been incredible. We have had international interest for not only being invited to the wedding but also, most importantly, why we were invited. These include ABC News, Sky news, ITV Border, BBC Look North, Sept-a-Huit (French broadcasting company), BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 5 Live, and many local newspapers. All publications have shared our story and shown the importance of our work at Carlisle Undercroft. It has been astonishing. As soon as we saw how many people were interested in our project we decided to launch a new crowdfunding page on JustGiving. For everyone who generously donates £50 or more to this page they will receive their very own personalised brick on our wall of thanks. This has been extremely popular, and we already have over 30 names on our wall.
On the Friday before the wedding, we went live on Good Morning America to discuss our work at Carlisle Undercroft and our crowdfunding page. This was the most nerve-wracking but exciting experience we’ve ever had, and it was a great opportunity to talk to millions of viewers internationally about our project. Whilst on air, we also discussed our wedding gift for the royal couple, the first of our bricks on the Carlisle Undercroft wall of thanks, which are available to sponsors of the project. Harry and Meghan’s brick bares their name and will be visible in the venue for years to come, commemorating their day and our gratitude for having been invited. You can still access the JustGiving page and donate to our project. Our aim is to raise £150,000 to complete the renovations and we need public donation to help us to reach our target.
How was the wedding and who did we see?
We woke up at 4.30am on the day of the wedding. We put on our new outfits and I of course wore a hat. We arrived at Windsor just after 7am and started to queue to get into the grounds of Windsor Castle with the other lucky 1,200 members of many different local community groups and charities. It was great to exchange stories and experiences with many different individuals and most importantly how grateful we all were, and excited to see the royals on such a special day.
The air buzzed with excitement as people wondered which celebrities had been invited to the event and who we may get to speak to. We had heard that there may be a chance to see Elton John or David Beckham. We were not disappointed as we got to see Idris Elba, George Clooney and even the Queen! In the grounds we immediately claimed our spot and set up a picnic blanket, picnic basket and popped open the prosecco on one of the sunniest days of the year so far and before you ask yes, we got very sun burnt! We had a perfect spot in the grounds and were right in front of the Gailiee Porch.
Since receiving our invite we have not only gone to one of the most prestigious events to happen in the last century but have been able to raise money and most importantly raise awareness for our project, Carlisle Undercroft. We hope that we can continue to raise more money and that people will support all of the work we do and to create this venue for all participants and spectators in Cumbria to enjoy together.
Now our next mission; please help us to get open for 2019!