Love’s Farm is a new development on the Eastern Expansion of St Neots. Love’s Farm Community Association (LFCA) had already done a superb job of cultivating a vibrant, supportive community when Hunts Forum met them in 2014, but for their next project they needed some help.
LFCA was preparing to take on a 30-year lease for a new community centre, which had been funded primarily through Section 106 payments but needed someone to run it. There was an enthusiastic team of volunteers with some big ambitions but little experience in running community buildings or charity governance.
The volunteer team met frequently with Hunts Forum’s development manager to work through the ins and outs of which charitable structure would suit them best and what steps were needed to get their charity established. They were introduced to the trustees at Lakeview Village Hall, who were on a similar journey but two years ahead of them. They attended lots of training events on subjects such as duties of trustees, fundraising, volunteer management, financial management and health and safety.
As chair of trustees Ben Pitt explains, “The most valuable thing was having somewhere we could turn to whenever we got stuck. The team at Hunts Forum sometimes gave us the answer, and sometimes they put us in touch with another organisation that could help. Often, though, they would re-frame the question in a way that helped us to work out the answer for ourselves. This combination of support, networking opportunities and friendly challenge was exactly what we needed to help us deliver on our ambitions.”
The resulting community centre, Love’s Farm House, has now been open for four years, it hosts over 100 events per month and has over 1,000 visitors per week. It raises enough income from its room hire, bar and café activities to employ eight part-time staff, leaving the trustees to concentrate on strategic development. The project has given Ben a passion for community activities, and in 2017 he joined Hunts Forum as our Communities Officer.