2014 has been the year in which Atmos Totnes moved from an idea, a possibility, into a fast-moving live community project. That’s only been possible thanks to the support of thousands of people in this town, and we’d like to express our gratitude to you all.
It’s been quite a year for Atmos Totnes. We spent the first half of the year negotiating the terms of the contract that we finally signed in August, sitting at a table in the garden of the Tangerine Tree cafe. A few weeks later we were able, 7 years after the initial efforts to put the community in the driving seat of the future of this site, to announce publicly what had been agreed.
The first most people knew that something was about to be announced was when the following image popped up on Facebook and Twitter:
And then a few days later, an event was held that will live long in the memory of everyone who attended. The gates were opened to the public for the first time in 7 years, and around 200 people gathered to hear a statement about the site’s future read out, and to celebrate with the incredible Atmos cake produced in the kitchens at Schumacher College. You can read the statement that was read out on the day here and see lots of photos here.
This was then followed a few days later by a well-attended public meeting in St John’s Church, photos of which you can see here. New Lion Brewery, the town’s new brewery, created a special bottled Atmos Ale to celebrate. This event marked the beginning of the period of community consultation, and a few days later the Atmos Totnes Hub opened in Dairy Crest’s former site office.
The Hub was open on Fridays and Saturdays for 8 weeks and developed by Encounters Arts into a remarkable experience for the over 1,200 people who passed through it. Some of those who visited were asked how they found the experience, and their responses were used to produce a whole range of podcasts including this one.
Our 500th visitor made news in the Herald Express newspaper. Lots of people who used to work at the Dairy Crest factory dropped in to share their memories of working on the site, often very movingly. For example, Michael Jarvis spoke movingly about the impact of the site’s closure, and Tom Jenkins recalled the culture of pride that there was around the factory. Many left their memories of their time there, some even bringing in photos and other mementos of life working for Dairy Crest.
A look through the Hub’s Visitors Book gave a clear idea of how people were finding the Hub, and their excitement about what they could see unfolding there. For example:
- “So Inspired! Thank you! Wonderful presentation offered with such care, such depth and breadth we would love to be more involved”
- “Great ideas, knowledgeable voices, long may it grow and be a reality. I’m in”.
- “Brought back happy memories. A golden opportunity to link the past with the present and younger people with older people. Lets work together to provide the centre for the whole community”
- “Almost too much to take in! Need more time to think about the seemingly endless possibilities. But very impressed by the way the project is expressed”.
You will find a great selection of photos from the Hub here: perhaps you’re in one of them? The scope and imagination of the ideas people left was incredible. As well as the Hub itself and the 1,200 people who passed through it, another 1,000 people were engaged through a wide range of outreach that took place during those 8 weeks, including talks in school assemblies, to a range of different local organisations, and stalls including outside the Spar in Bridgetown, under the Butterwalk, outside Morrisons, Follaton Village Store.
Duncan Good, who represents Dairy Crest in relation to Atmos Totnes, paid a visit in early December and was shown round the Hub, and, as part of a longer interview, told us “I’m staggered by the response”.
This phase of the Hub consultation closed on December 6th, with a cream tea to celebrate with volunteers what had been achieved there (photos of which you will find on Encounters Arts excellent blog of the whole process). We also can’t go without mentioning the amazing Desert Island Discs Atmos benefit held at St John’s Church which raised almost £2,000 for the project.
2015 will see the project move to a designed project, with more consultation, and the build up to the Community Right to Build Order referendum that will decide the site’s future. We’re delighted that you’ll be on that journey with us.
Seasons greetings from everyone involved with Atmos Totnes.
May a thousand ideas flourish…