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Personalities visit Swansea community to start revitalising landmark building

Broadcaster Huw Edwards and Welsh Government Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport Lord Elis-Thomas visited Swansea today to help secure a lively future for a celebrated building.


They joined local people at a launch event for a project that will develop a plan to revitalise the 146-year-old Morriston Tabernacle. 

Swansea Council wants to help it regain its position as a pivotal local location.

Robert Francis-Davies, cabinet member for investment, regeneration and tourism, said: "We're delighted that Huw - who is a great supporter of Welsh chapels - and Lord Elis-Thomas visited the Tabernacle today (note: Oct 12).

"This project represents an important development in the history of a building of national significance, one of only two listed Grade 1 within the city.

"It was once the heartbeat of the local community - and it can be again. Over the coming months, we'll be asking local people and organisations to tell us what they need from the building and what ideas they have; I encourage them to play their part."

Lord Elis-Thomas said: "I commend Huw Tregelles Williams and the other trustees of the Tabernacle for grasping the nettle to make the chapel sustainable for future generations by developing a financially viable model for the operation of the building.

"I am pleased that the Welsh Government was able to help with the costs of the commissioning of an options appraisal - which seemed a most important next step to help inform options for both future use and future ownership for the chapel.

"Places of worship are often cherished local buildings with a significance to their communities that stems from the role that they have played over the centuries.

"They have been witness to so many significant events in the lives of countless individuals, as well as being stitched into the fabric of their everyday lives.

"The quality of their design and craftsmanship directly reflects the hopes and beliefs of their builders. Possibly no other building type contains quite so much history."

Huw Edwards said: "There are very few grade one listed Welsh chapels - and this is the biggest and grandest of them.

"It's probably the most famous Welsh chapel in the world.

"It's a jewel in Swansea's crown and, for me, it should be valued by not just the people of Swansea and Morriston but by people all around Wales.

"It's a very special place and that's why I'm really happy to support it.

"Morriston has one of the biggest architectural and heritage jewels anywhere in the UK and it's something that they could 'own.' It's a building which is theirs; it's not a building that belongs to just a small group, it belongs to the entire community.

"The great thing about the future and this strategy is that this building will become much more accessible and much more useable for the whole community - and they should really take advantage of that."

The building is at the heart of Morriston, a community that was key to Swansea's growth as a 19th century industrial powerhouse.

The council's revitalisation plan comes at a time when the building is in better condition than ever in living memory. However, it is used only for a limited amount of time each week.

Now council officer Jacqualyn Box is based at Tabernacle from where she will gather the views of people and organisations across the community and understand their aspirations. These will include existing venues with which the Tabernacle could dovetail in future.

Her 18-month project may result in funding applications to bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The revitalisation plan - Morriston Tabernacle: Sustaining for Future Generations - is being funded by the HLF under its Resilient Heritage Programme.

The £71,300 HLF award is supporting the work of Jacqualyn to develop a business plan and fundraising plan. This will include developing a new governance and management model for the chapel. It will consider legal changes needed for a new way of operating, find new complementary uses for the building that generate income allowing it to be sustainable and will develop and support volunteers. 

At the end of the 18 months an event will be held and documents produced to share learning and good practice for other groups and organisations facing similar challenges.

Richard Bellamy, head of HLF in Wales, said: "Thanks to National Lottery players, custodians of historic buildings can access Resilience Heritage funding to explore options for the sustainable use, management and administration of historic buildings.

"Tabernacle Chapel Trust, in partnership with Swansea Council, will engage with local stakeholders, explore new income streams and strengthen the governance of Tabernacle Chapel, one of the most iconic chapels in Wales."

More info Contact Jacqualyn Box - email, phone 07827 307968.

Photo Broadcaster Huw Edwards, centre, at Morriston Tabernacle today with, from left: the Tabernacle's David Gwyn John, Swansea Council cabinet member Andrea Lewis, Welsh Government Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport Lord Elis-Thomas, and council officer Jacqualyn Box.


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