Making a cultural project into a fundable proposition was a challenge for Stephen Feber ? he tells us how.
In 2006, Kerrier District Council in Cornwall had a vision of reinvigorating a derelict part of Pool, Camborne and Redruth with a new cultural centre: Heartlands. Primarily for local people, it was also to be a focus for Cornish culture, a place of regional pride with international reach. Tin mining had finished, the economy was very depressed, educational attainment was low and health was poor. The Lottery fund, ‘Living Landmarks’, had been created to support community-led regeneration. Could we help Kerrier to regenerate the area and realise the dream? With an architecture, exhibition and engineering team, we put the scheme together in three months and submitted it in May 2007. Last November, after a summer of scrutiny, I presented it to the Lottery Board with Scott James and Malcolm Moyle from the Council and we won £22m. We were one of three successful applications out of 313 original schemes, and Heartlands is the only one in England.
Projects go wrong, not because of lack of resources, people or time, but because of lack of thought. We spent a lot of time pondering what Heartlands should be, and what the Lottery wished to fund. Making a fundable project is a creative process from the raw material of hope, moving between the fluidity of invention and the tight requirements of a funding regime. We use mind-mapping software that allows us, with the client and professional teams, to think freely, to take projects apart, to improve and re-assemble them. Concept mapping is the heart of the system we use.
This helped to structure our ambition to integrate culture, commerce, regeneration, energy systems and a new community focus, although the project has become more complex. It has a park, gardens, an interpretation centre, two new squares, 22 live-work units for artists, a building for making sculpture, restaurant, shops, a children’s centre and a new village centre. It will be a net energy generator and, funded separately, it will also have 50 houses on the site. This richness is good. Lottery projects need significant capital assets and a number of income streams to survive. The Heartlands mix gives us this mix. Because of that, the visitor centre will be free. Kerrier had always wanted a focus on the public realm and public art but we have been able to extend this significantly. Just as creativity has fuelled the development process, so it will be the pivot of regeneration.
We applied the concept-mapping process to a careful analysis of the Lottery’s funding structure. We created a 12-chapter book using a template system using Adobe InDesign, with each team contributing relevant sections. This was highly structured, with everyone allocated a page, word and illustration budget. We supported this with the construction industry’s PRINCE2 methodology and financial systems. Underlying the process of design, we always have a tightly organised project management process.
In the Spring of 2008 we’re getting ready to go out to tender, with April 2010 as the opening date. Our commitment to creativity hasn’t finished: it’s just beginning. We see creativity in engineering, design, social enterprise, theatre, music, craft and art as being the well-spring of Heartlands.