At Work: Fundraising - Funding story - The Florence Trust

Radhika Holmstrom

The UK's oldest boys' club, in Liverpool's Toxteth area, has secured funding by emphasising its value as a heritage site.

Denise Devine, chair of the Florence Trust, has been campaigning for nearly eight years to save, renovate and revitalise the Florence Institute - the UK's oldest surviving purpose-built youth club.

"Even when we were telling people about our application, there was a sense of 'it's not going to happen', and it sent a real shock through everyone when the money did come through," she says.

The Florence Institute - known locally as 'the Florrie' - was built in 1889 in Toxteth, Liverpool, as a boys' club. It closed after a fire in 1998. The new grant of £3.9m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which came through at the end of September, is the first funding secured to finance a £5.5m plan to convert the Florrie into a 'flexible community facility'.

The grant has been applauded by numerous public figures, including culture minister David Lammy. However, as Devine points out, there have been years when nobody, apart from a group of local campaigners, "would touch it with a barge pole". The main reason the funding did come through is that the Florence Trust presented it not just as a community project, but also as a heritage issue.

"A lot of community groups forget to look at the historical significance of their projects and their role in local culture," explains Tony Jones, regional manager for the north west at the Heritage Lottery Fund. In the case of the Florrie, where Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers played his first gig, it was easy to demonstrate that significance.

The physical structure is equally important. "If you have a crumbling building, look at everything from the ownership on," Devine recommends.

"We couldn't establish ownership, so we had to wait until it defaulted to the Duchy of Lancaster. There may be restricted covenants on the original title deeds. Deal with agencies such as the Land Registry."

Devine and her colleagues have spent a long time tackling the structural and planning issues - and that's been an essential factor in their success.

Jones concludes: "We're set up to support people who are passionate about their local heritage, and who want to do the best they can for their local communities. This is our contribution to some of that pride in the local area that can be rebuilt. It's a fabulous project."

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