Government funding kick-starts second phase of ‘Saints’ project

Exciting work on the second phase to refurbish a beautiful Victorian building in Nuneaton town centre will get underway this year.

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council is working in partnership with the charity ‘Together For Change’ (TFC), who are a charitable venture of the Coventry Diocese, and have completed the negotiations to acquire the former Conservative Club, which has been re-named ‘Saints’.

The project secured £1.8 million from the Government’s Towns Fund after signing a lease in 2020 and converting the empty premises and former ‘Saints No More’ nightclub into a training café with free children’s play area and training room.

Now that the entire building on the corner of Newdegate Street has been bought by the Council, the charity can move on to phase two to renovate the upstairs dance hall and balcony and create a kitchen and toilets.

Jet Jones, who leads the Saints project, and works for the diocese of Coventry as the Director of Regeneration and Community Transformation, and is also CEO of Together for Change, said renovations will look to begin this year.

“We are signing a long-term lease with the Council and some of the funding will enable us to go ahead with the renovation of the upstairs of St George’s Hall,” she said.

“It has been mothballed for decades and used to be St George’s Hall, which hosted dances and events.

“Saints is keen to conserve the heritage of the building and there is a beautiful balcony area and a big Victorian wooden spring dance floor with a stage which will be refurbished. We need to install new heating, windows and a lift as well as re-decorate it in sympathy with the existing architecture.

“We are really excited about this next stage and we will be putting the work out to tender so we would be interested in hearing from contractors who would be happy to give a charity discount to help get the place up and running.

“We think the work will take nine months and it is my ambition for the project to be completed by the summer of 2024.” 

Jet added: “It has been four years since we came up with the concept and decided to take on the building and even though we opened just before lockdown, the support we have received from the local community along with receiving the funding from the Towns Fund has been tremendous, and allowed us to support the community during a vital time where many need support.

“This latest development enables us to continue with our vision because it is amazing to see Saints buzzing with families and other members of our community.”

The downstairs community hub features a training café for young people to take part in courses to develop the skills they need for life or to find work. It also provides a space for courses and activities including Create and Connect groups, Mum’s Do Brunch and the Saturday morning Lego club.

Saints is also home to the Student Lounge initiative, providing free after school support and youth activities every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3.30pm until 5.30pm.

Archdeacon Barry Dugmore said: “The Saints project recognises the significant contribution of Diocese of Coventry’s vision for community transformation working with other key stakeholders and community partners.”

Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council was successful in its bid for an allocation from the Towns Fund following a major consultation to the Town Deal Board – which is made up of business representatives, Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Councillors, Warwickshire County Council, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), Warwickshire CAVA, the health sector and community.

Cllr Kris Wilson, Leader of Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, said: “We are working hard to Transform Nuneaton and make our Borough a great place to live, work and visit. Many residents have fond memories of evenings spent at St George’s Hall. I can’t wait to see this project underway and the hall restored to its former glory.

“Great venues like this one, with strong links to the town’s past, really make a town centre come alive and will be a great addition to Nuneaton’s future.”

Sean Farnell, Chair of the Nuneaton Town Deal Board and CWLEP board director, said it was fantastic another exciting chapter was about to get started in the life of St George’s Hall.

“The Together for Change team is transforming this beautiful Victorian building into a community hub to be used by all,” he said.

“The next stage to restore the upstairs will be a sight to behold when it is finished because it has such striking interiors and it will be a really great place to hold a wide range of functions once the work is finished.”

Mark Ryder, Strategic Director for Communities at Warwickshire County Council, added: “This is a perfect example of what we are looking to achieve in the Transforming Nuneaton partnership.

“The renovation of the building makes for a more vibrant town centre while the community, particularly young people, will be at the heart of the day-to day activity which is a tremendous outcome and bodes well for the town’s future. WCC is proud to support the work of Saints and the support they provide the local community through this historic building.”