Allchurches Trust’s annual grants to dioceses fund a range of activities that are focused on community engagement, social action, education and more. In Coventry, our grant is funding a Director of Regeneration, Jet Jones, to spearhead a range of social impact projects making a huge difference to disadvantaged communities.
In her role, Jet heads up the Joint Venture (JV), Together for Change Coventry and Warwickshire (TfC) – a partnership between the diocese and Church Urban Fund (CUF). In January 2020, Jet’s most recent project came to fruition with the opening of phase one of Saints – a landmark building in Nuneaton that has, over the years, been a Conservative Club, a dance hall and a nightclub.
It was Jet’s vision to transform this rough diamond into a facility that would provide a range of support to families and young people, particularly those struggling to make ends meet, and remove barriers to them building a brighter future. With the help of a collection of Nuneaton Churches and Christian organisations who share Jet’s passion for bringing community transformation to the heart of Nuneaton, the ground floor has now opened as a new Enterprise and Equip Centre.
“Our mission for Saints Nuneaton is to tackle unemployment and lack of education, enhance physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and to inspire and connect people through the creative arts.”
Jet Jones, Director of Regeneration, Together for Change
The stained glass windows have been opened up and the nightclub carpet removed to reveal a beautiful parquetry floor, creating a light, open space that has been decorated and furnished in keeping with the building’s Art Deco history.
The ground floor is split into an enterprise/training room, a children’s free play area run by qualified staff (so that parents can access support, training and enterprise opportunities without the need to organise childcare, as well as enjoy each other’s company) and a marketplace for young people to sell products they have made at stalls they can rent for only £3.50 per day. The family owned café that was next door has also expanded into the space and will offer training to young people with Saints’ support.
Nuneaton has one of the highest rates of teenage parents in the UK, which is why they are the key focus of Saints. The hope is that young mum and dads will come into the café and play centre and feel encouraged to access training and courses in a setting that is a world away from school.
The aim of the marketplace is to allow people to test products and help people to learn how they might start and sustain a successful market stall business. A local special school is making and selling computer-printed mugs, tea towels, aprons and cards, while local college floristry students are renting a stall and will be learning how to run a business as they go, from making and selling to accounts. Local artisans will also be selling their wares, and young parents will be encouraged to explore this opportunity, potentially with support from the Equip Centre. This training room will provide careers advisers and mentors, and college taster courses and workshops, as well as help with English and Maths.
Plans for the future of Saints include the transformation of the huge ballroom into a space for culture and creativity, where people can come together for plays, dances, drama, music performances and film. It will open to all with an emphasis on family and will be the town’s only venue of this kind.
Allchurches’ annual grant also helps to fund work with asylum seekers and Family Link Worker projects in the diocese. Rea Verdon is the Family Link Worker at St Laurence’s Church and St Laurence’s C of E School. One of her projects is the weekly Slow Cooker Course, held in the primary school and open to all parents of enrolled children. The free six-week course is teaching families (some who have no access to a stove or kitchen) how to cook healthy, cost effective, hot meals with just a plug-in slow cooker. On completion of a six week course, participants are given their own slow cooker and copies of the recipes they’ve learned to cook. They also finish the course with new friends, a sense of pride, increased self-confidence and better self-esteem.