Christmas message from the George Team

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you from The George Management Team!

It’s been a whole year since we were notified of our successful £988,200 Lottery Grant from The National lottery Heritage Fund and much has happened during 2022.  As Christmas and 2023 approaches this is a good time to reflect on the year and look forward with optimism.  The George vision is getting closer!

The share offer is still open
Our second share offer was launched in February, with a minimum target of £225,000.  Clearly we have had to battle against the effects of a high increase in the cost of living and, finding ourselves £80,000 short of that target, in September we re-publicised the Share Offer.  Since then, we have gained a further £40,000 and now have 110 new shareholders from this Share Offer, making an incredible 440 individual investors in total. Could we possibly get to 500?  We would really like to get to our share target rather than rely entirely on grant applications to fund the difference, so the share issue is still open.  If you know anyone that might be interested in being a shareholder or increasing their current commitment, we would be delighted to hear from them. Help spread the word; details can be found on our website

Other Fundraising
We continue to raise our profile and improve finances. To date we have assessed over 40 possible grant bodies and have applied to 20.  As well as the Heritage Fund grant, we have received six other grants in this phase of the project, as well as receiving sponsorships and proceeds from events. To date, these activities have raised about £30,000 – plus we will receive £50,000 from the Community Share Booster Programme, linked to our share offer and we also have funds available from our previous share offer. We have outstanding grant applications which should hopefully cover the remaining gap and we expect to hear the outcomes in spring.  These may get us over the line, but we are also looking at loan options as a less desirable back-up.  Currently our total funding target is based on a cost re-assessment carried out in August, with total costs of £1,469,000.  In March 2023 we will have sight of the actual cost after the  Main Contractor tenders have been received.

Project update
During Spring and Summer our professional team produced very detailed plans and costings.  In November tender documents for the Main Building Contractor were finalised and, following a pre-qualification process, were issued to three East Anglian building companies with appropriate heritage experience. As with any heritage renovation project a great deal of detail had been incorporated into the tender specification which led to further questions and clarification and consequently some delay.
The original date for receipt of tenders was set for early January but one of the tenderers asked for an extension to 28th February as they couldn’t resource an earlier date, otherwise they would have to withdraw. We felt it important that we have all three tenders for consideration and, having consulted with the Heritage Fund, a decision was made to extend the tender return date. This delay unfortunately moves the programmed start of work on site back to early April but, on a positive note, will ensure the likelihood of better weather to help make a good start and the chance that material costs and supply might have stabilised.

Heritage Art Exhibition
During the summer term Wickham Market Primary School children completed two Heritage Art Projects that were initiated by The George Community Pub as part of our heritage activities programme. The first project was for pupils to illustrate five prominent heritage buildings on our High Street culminating in an exhibition of 65 paintings on the hoarding that surrounds The George. The exhibition was opened by Suffolk County Councillor Alexander Nicoll and Mrs Helen Murray, School Head.
In the second project, pupils from the school conducted interviews with some of our more senior residents to compare life then and as it is today. The interviews were recorded and now provide a fascinating insight to the memories of a different generation.

Quiz Nights
Held in the village hall, we had two very enjoyable and successful quiz nights. These have raised £1,600 in funds for the George.  Further events will be announced in 2023.

Christmas Market
We had a very well supported stall at the Market on the Hill on 3rd December where we were pleased to meet and update many Society members and supporters. The display used at the Market will shortly be added to the hoardings at The George in order to inform and update passers-by.

Support from our MP
A letter of support from our MP, Dr Dan Poulter has been received relating to a grant application, in which he says ‘I would like to put on record my full support for this project. Heritage Lottery Funding has already been secured, but due to market conditions and increased costs, the team is seeking financial support and therefore applying to this Fund. I would be grateful for your consideration of this worthy project and wish the team every success in their endeavours.’ 
This is typical of the support and goodwill we have received from around Wickham Market and the wider community. In addition, the Heritage Fund continues to be very supportive and has released the required funding to get us to this stage.  Like us they now await with optimism the costs and funding outcomes in the Spring. 
Thank you for your support

Best wishes from the George Team