22 October 2013
So, as you can see—the builders are in the house (well the chapel!) And they are not hanging around. The pulpit is no more...nor the pews downstairs, all the plaster is off the walls and the building is swathed in scaffolding—no turning back now…
If we were an episode on Grand Designs...this would be the time when we would sack our architect and decide to project manage the whole thing ourselves. We would soon run out of money to pay the builders having decided that we really must have windows supplied by a company in Germany that were way over budget but would open soooo smoothly (if only they would actually arrive in the country). We would of course be living amongst the rubble on site in a caravan (hey at least we’ve got one) waiting for final planning permission and my wife would be pregnant with twins. And you lot would all be watching, desperately hoping that it would all fall down around us, that it would break up our oh-so-smug relationship and that finally Kevin McCloud would stand in-front of the derelict shell of a chapel explaining how he actually knew that we were a bunch of desperate, greedy, self-important, fools. Oh the drama!
No such luck I’m afraid. Having completed the final designs with our lovely architects, Groundworks, the tender documents went out at the end of the summer inviting bids from various companies for the main contract. Bids came back in and the contract was awarded (more or less perfectly on budget) to a company called Roebuck and Holmes who happen to be based in Farnley Tyas (next village up from Heads Together’s base in the Holme Valley). They started work on schedule on 23rd September and started ripping the building to pieces (in a planned way of course).
We were really conscious of our responsibilities of being good neighbours and the potential impact of a 6-month programme of building work on the people who live in the houses nearby. I went round knocking on doors a couple of days before the work started and—although I'm not saying everyone was celebrating the imminent arrival of the builders—I was delighted by the amount of support expressed by our immediate neighbours.
One of the things that we were all a little worried about was the fact that both the Methodist Church, and South Seacroft Friends and Neighbours, will be continuing to use the Chapel annex throughout the build. SSFN are a brilliant organisation who support older people in the area, putting on lunches in the Church Hall several days a week as well as a range of other activities. It was important to us that their work is not disrupted and access is maintained at all times. I emailed Kate at SSFN last week just to check how things were going—“From our point of view the builders are excellent, the guys are very considerate. We are happy to speak to them with any minor issues and they help sort it quickly.”
No drama in that then.
One of the things you have to do on a project like this is write a so-called Risk Register. You start off by listing all the things that could go wrong or stop the project from happening. You then colour them up. Mostly they start red and then you watch them turn amber and finally green. If things go really badly then some of the things might turn black (and despair ensues!). We’re on version 11 of our risk register now. And indeed it is very satisfying to see things turn amber and green. Finance secured—green; planning permission approved—green; lease agreed—green... It looks like for version 12 there are a couple more risks that can go green. Firstly, the Chapel didn’t fall down before we could start the work! And what’s more, now the builders have stripped everything back, the structural engineer has been in and reported that…well he hasn’t actually reported anything and in this case, nothing to report is a very good thing (unless you were hoping for a bit of drama of course).
The lovely Mark Wood has been in to have a good look at the organ, and cover it all up so that those clumsy builders don’t break anything in the next 6 months. He sent the report through the other day.
“One problem on the Great Organ I discovered was when one note is played a second note also plays. Basically this means either a wooden partition has become dislodged inside the soundboard which can be quite difficult to cure, or a tosh membrane has become unstuck and when this happens the bars in the soundboard are exposed which allows air to run from one note to the other.”
A bit of drama surrounding the tosh membrane perhaps? Well, it’s undoubtedly going to be a bit of a job to get the organ back in a fit condition but Mark certainly has some family-based incentive...
“Incidentally, I know the exact date the Organ was installed as I discovered my grandfather’s signature in the roof above the Organ and it was dated 1910.”
Maybe more like an organ-based soap opera opportunity then. I can feel ELFM Director of Words, Peter Spafford, reaching for his pen. We were thinking of commissioning some radio drama that had to, as a prerequisite, feature the playing of an organ. Surely a slam-dunk there Peter!
Incidentally, whilst we are on the theme of music, a little advance warning of a chapel-related event that you can take part in without the need for a hard hat—the fabulous Jon Gomm is going to do a live online gig on December 1st as a fundraiser for chapELFM. That's the Jon Gomm who now has over 5.1 million views for his track Passionflower on youtube. More on this later...
So—back to building chapELFM. We are on target for the main building work to be finished around the end of March and then Mark comes in and starts renovating the organ and Russ starts connecting the ten thousand pounds worth of cabling that has been threaded through the building (I know—how is it possible to spend that much money in Maplins!)
And then the drama really begins. Well not just the radio drama—but the live music and the journalism and the film and the poetry and the training and the residencies and the sound-art commissions and the international exchanges and...who knows what.
And that’s how I’d like to keep it. Don’t tell Kevin but the drama comes once we get into the building (touch a pew someone please!)