Built in 1816, Brixton Windmill is London’s last working windmill, occupying a unique 200-year-old listed building in an urban park. The vision? Build a new education centre. How? The crowd of course.
The Friends of Windmill Gardens, a dedicated group of volunteers that formed in 2003 to campaign for the restoration of the then derelict Brixton Windmill, have managed to turn the trashed into the treasured. Since its recovery, Brixton Windmill has evolved into an asset of the local community, offering workshops on bread and flour production to local schools and free tours of the windmill over summer weekends. However, with all of this development happening in a building shared with the local nursery, the strain on both storage and facilities has continued to increase.
So, when Brixton-based award-winning architect Squire & Partners designed Brixton Windmill a new building for free, and Lambeth Council offered to pay for its construction, it just left the funds to be found to kit out the interior. And who better to get on board than the very people who will benefit from this wonderful community venture? The crowd.
Kim, Project Owner behind Brixton Windmill, said, “The crowdfunding campaign helped us to raise half of the amount we need to fit out our new education centre, which was a huge financial boost. But it had other non-financial benefits too – we received so many great supportive comments that were a real boost to our volunteers and made them realise that there is a lot of local support for the work they do. Also, whilst crowdfunding, we reached our target well before the deadline we had set ourselves, so we were able to set a stretch target and managed to exceed our original target by more than £3,000. That was a great bonus!”
What this new education centre will mean for Brixton Windmill is that they can expand their schools education programme, offer other workshops such as baking classes and milling experiences, provide better facilities such as toilets for park users, and hire the space out to local groups for meetings and events.
Kim added, “Whilst construction of the education centre was delayed by several months, the contractor has finally started work this week and it’s now due for completion by the end of April 2019 (it was originally scheduled to be finished by Christmas 2018). So, we haven’t got a building to kit out yet! But once it’s ready we will be able to provide far more workshops for schools and also run baking and nutrition workshops for adults. Local community groups will also be able to hire the space for meetings and events, and park users will have access to toilets when the centre is open.
Their crowdfunder.co.uk project was a huge hit from the get go, raising an incredible £15,148 from 197 supporters along the way. Amongst the support was an extra funding pledge of £1,250 from Lambeth Council. Aiming to support community projects and initiatives that will make Lambeth a unique place to live, work, learn and do business, #CrowdfundLambeth was a clear fit for Brixton Windmill.
Jim Dickson, Cabinet Member for Voluntary Sector, Partnerships & Community Safety at Lambeth Council, said, “We’re delighted to support the Brixton Windmill. It’s a unique historic landmark in the heart of our borough, and they are such a dedicated bunch of volunteers, building links with the local community and coming up with new and innovative ideas about how to involve people.”
It’s clear that Brixton Windmill sits firmly in the heart of the community, but what is Kim’s advice for others thinking of crowdfunding?
“Going for all or nothing over a shorter period focuses your energy and efforts and gives people a deadline to concentrate on! Also make the most of your local contacts – I don’t know my neighbours that well, but I emailed them about the project and two of them made very generous donations. And know where your strengths lie: we have a very strong Twitter presence, and our tweets brought in a higher number of pledges at a higher average amount than other social media and emails. Finally, don’t underestimate the time it takes!”
If you have a community based project or social enterprise and are looking to crowdfund, then you could also be eligible for extra funding. Find out more about the funds we have on offer and get in touch today.