chapELFM | Thunderbirds are go...

chapELFM | Thunderbirds are go...


We launched the chapELFM development on February 6th 2013 with an event in the chapel itself. It was great to see such a good turn-out: a chapel full of funders, volunteers, staff, board-members, young people, parents, teachers… all people who shared our excitement in announcing that our ambition to create the first-ever dedicated arts venue in East Leeds had just taken a massive step forward: we could confirm that we had all the money we needed to go forward into the final design and construction phase. Exciting stuff, but humbling too. The project has got to this point because of the active involvement of a vast number of people. As a good number of them sat smiling in the bitterly cold chapel, it was obvious that they had high expectations. The responsibility to do the best job possible is back on us now—the work begins!

Understanding the process
When Yvonne Deane came over to the Barn at the beginning of March for a special training session with our Board and Staff Team, the aim was to share some of her knowledge about how a capital building programme works and what would (or should) be happening when. Certainly everyone went away afterwards much clearer about the plan and the programme (despite the fog that made my journey over to Barnsley with George an absolute nightmare).

One of the exercises involved us all in creating a timeline of the project from now through until we launch chapELFM in the autumn of 2014 (making use of Yvonne's fabulously sized post-it notes). It quickly became obvious from the exercise, the preponderance of post-it notes right at the beginning of the process; in fact right now! It was something Yvonne had talked about before we got going, but, a month in to the process, it is very obvious to me now just how much has to be done in the opening couple of months, and just how quickly I would need to learn a new language and to inhabit a new world of Lead Professionals and Design Teams; of CDMs and Stage Ds.

And there are still things that I am catching up with; as I take over the responsibility for the development from Linda who took the lead in the first phases of development (Stages A-D in fact) and the incredibly successful fundraising campaign. It makes sense to hand the project over from the Development Director to the Creative Director; because now we are discussing a reality rather than a possibility; we are creating something that takes ELFM forward from its first ten years of community radio on through the next 99 years (well that's how long the lease on the building is for!).

And apart from me having to learn the ropes, we are working with an architect, Matt Strong, who is himself completely new to the project (I'll explain that later). And don't forget, we've still got a Company to run! Projects and fundraising and development and staffing… 

Sounds like a recipe for disaster? Don't worry–no need to call in Gordon Ramsay yet—I can assure you that, two months on from the launch, all aspects of the kitchen are running smoothly.

It's the first time I've had a sous-chef (ok—I'll stop with the kitchen analogies right now!) Katy Hayley has come in to cover my project management responsibilities and that is working really well. Of course it has taken time for her to understand exactly what is going on in each of the programmes of work; but, having been on staff with us for 6 years in the 2000s, she has an in-depth understanding of both the culture and principles of Heads Together.

It's not just Katy that's made this intense period run smoothly. We have a very strong, committed staff and freelance team at Heads Together. And of course we have planned for this time. Our work tends to go through two distinct phases: firstly we spend a period of time thinking and development ideas; then there is a phase of practical implementation—we just get on with it! For the next 6 months, we are very much into our practical delivery phase; the programmes of work are all planned up to the end of the summer—the whole team know what is coming up and are raring to go. 

That means it's not simply a case of doing the bare minimum on our project work whilst we put our energies into the Chapel. Whilst Lizzie and Katy are working with two wards on the All in the Mind project at Lynfield Mount Hospital; Two Valleys Radio have just completed Play*Write*Hear—their first-ever radio drama festival; whilst we all had a great night on Tuesday for ELFM's latest initiative: the Leeds Young Music Video Awards at the Brudenell Social Club.

So the work is continuing apace, admirably supported by the Board of Heads Together. Special mention goes to the Chapel Sub-Group who, as their name would suggest, will be taking a lot of the strain of the capital build in the coming months (including Chair Gillian Swalwell with her specially-purchased purple hard-hat!)

Special Teams
So moving away from the kitchen analogies to a sports ones, we have an extended team to help us run this once-in-a-lifetime capital build project. First off, let's be clear about my rôle. I am the Client; or rather the Lead Client (I represent Heads Together on the build project and have responsibility for keeping everyone in the organisation up-to-date with what's going on (hence the blog!). The key relationship in getting this building built is between the Lead Professional (the architect—Matt Strong) and the Lead Client and all decision-making goes through that corridor. To move to a cricketing term, we need to avoid any corridors of uncertainty; which might happen if I were to independently instruct the builders (contractors) or Matt was to develop designs following individual discussions with members of staff with particular interests e.g. Peter with his need for sharp pencils to encourage writing; or Paddy with his TV cameras! I need to be involved to take into account all the different calls on the building and to represent an overview of our needs as Clients.

So, back to Special Teams… The main achievement of our work to-date has been to assemble the team as follows:

Consultant AdvisorYvonne Deane The advisor is contracted to support the client—Heads Together. Yvonne has a range of experience on other capital build projects so she has a deep understanding of the process. This means she can advise us as to what needs doing and can help us anticipate risks. Much of her work is done already—getting us up to speed with the process and workings—but we will continue to meet with her throughout the programme to check back that we are doing the right things in the right order!

Lead Professional: Matt Strong (Groundworks Architects) The big job for us in March was to invite a range of Architects to tender for the job of taking the project through to completion (from reviewing Stage D [Design Development] to Stage L [Post Practical Completion] as defined by RIBA [Royal Institute of British Architects]). Yvonne took a lead for us in preparing the Invitation to Tender and in creating a rigorous structure for the appointment process which involved the Chapel Sub-Group of the Board. It was a tough process to go through but one that was crucial for the project to progress smoothly. It meant that we really thought through what we needed and should expect from our architects; and have decided very positively that Matt Strong and Groundworks will be able to best provide that service. And, although it is still early days, the benefits are starting to show. We are having a very positive process of re-visiting our previous designs; with fresh eyes and new ideas. Often we are simply re-affirming the design decisions that we had made previously, but we have already made some key advances in the design which will both make the building more usable; more accessible to a range of people; and will enable us to better conserve the feel of the original building.

Design Team: The tender process was for the architects, but also for the Design Team that work with them: 

  • Quantity Surveyors who have a key rôle in overseeing the finances of the project (Appleyard and Trew)
  • Structural Engineers who will assess the  changes we make to the fabric of the building (and make sure it won't fall down!) (Capstone Consulting Engineers)
  • CDM services—Construction Design and Management—the planning and implementation of Health and Safety measures for the whole of the construction period (Appleyard and Trew);
  • Mechanical and Electrical Services—Designing and specifying the various services in the building e.g. power, heating, drainage… (Waterman Building Services)
  • Acoustic Consultancy: Advice regarding the acoustics of any of the internal spaces; acoustic separation between rooms; and the amount of noise that might get into (or out of) the building (Acoustic Design Technology)


Since the original tender was approved we have also met with  Russ Hepworth-Sawyer from Mottosound. Russ designed our current studios and will be joining the Design Team initially to advise about the integration of the equipment we need to run our broadcast operations and the impact that might have on design of spaces; mechanical and electrical Services; acoustic needs etc.

The final member of the Design Team will be a Public Artist; specifically an artist with skills in creating glass art. We are interviewing artists next week; and so should have everyone in place for the next few months of refining the designs before we go to tender and appoint a contractor to get on and do the work.

There are a couple of other crucial members of the team who have been working with us on this project for some time:

Solicitor: Simon Sherwood (Mills and Reeve) Simon has been acting for us in negotiations regarding the 99-year lease for the building. He has much experience in this kind of work (particularly involving public funding), and also offered to do the work pro bono (without charge) as a contribution to the project. We are currently in the final phase of negotiations with the Methodist Church who own the building.

VAT advisor: Alan Ross-Sercombe (Omnis) Alan has been acting for Heads Together with regard to the complex issue of VAT since we first registered with HMRC in 1998. Again, his work is just about done, as he has successfully negotiated with HMRC to the extent that we will be able to reclaim all VAT on the building works. Go Alan!

So, with the full team in place, thunderbirds really are go! 

The work continues…

Adrian Sinclair
April 7th 2013

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