SWINDON Trades Union Council (TUC) has pledged it’s support to the Mechanics’ Institution Trust for its bid to transform its vision for the iconic building into reality.
Nikki Dancey, Musicians Union delegate to Swindon TUC said: "In an era where regeneration is generally a code for more shops, chain restaurants or overpriced housing, the vision set forward for the regeneration of the Mechanics’ Institute and the surrounding area is a breath of fresh air.
"The people of Swindon deserve access to affordable cultural, social and educational activities, and the plans put forward by the MIT are an important step in that direction.
"The needs of the local community should always be put before profit, and that is one of the things that makes these proposals so exciting."
Jon Timbrell, Secretary of Swindon TUC said: "Both sides of my family came out of the railways. My grandparents have fond memories of using the Mechanics’ for dances, watching theatre and musical performances, taking classes and enrolling in the library scheme.
"The Mechanics’ was a place where working class Swindonians could access the sort of cultural and educational activities usually denied them, in the same way as the nearby Medical Fund Hospital offered railway workers access to such a high level of healthcare that it went on to form a blueprint for the NHS.
"What was unique about both of these initiatives was that they were run directly by the community itself to meet its own need.
"That spirit of solidarity and community empowerment runs through the plans for the regeneration of the area put forward by the MIT, which is something that as Trade Unionists and local residents, we are very excited about.
"In an era where we are seeing standards of living plummet, libraries close and disposable income for leisure activities squeezed, this project is just what the people of Swindon need."
Buildings such as Central Community Centre, also operated by the Mechanics’ Institution Trust have been invaluable to Swindon TUC and other community groups and have been used over the last several years to host several high profile trade union events, such as an event to commemorate Swindon workers role in the 1926 general strike and the annual Swindon Radical Bookfair.
Swindon TUC has pledged itself to support the Mechanics’ Institution Trust in realizing its ambitions for the Mechanics’ Institute and the surrounding area and is looking forward to publicizing and participating in awareness and fundraising activities in the near future.
THE Grade 2* listed Mechanics’ Institute has been empty and boarded up for many years, but plans were revealed earlier this month to transform it into a bustling and vibrant hub of the community with space for films and events, offices for community organisations, conference facilities, a new restaurant and even a theatre.
Ambitions to restored it as one of Swindon’s most important locations is estimated to cost between £15m and £20m.
Around £12m would be sought through a funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund, with the rest coming from a trust, foundations and a public fundraising campaign.
At the launch of the new plans Daniel Rose, the Trust’s director says the plans are inspired by the pioneering character and energy of those that created New Swindon from a green field site in the 1840s.
And he added: “Swindon has the potential to lead the way in community-led heritage regeneration. “Rather than see heritage as a barrier to change or for its economic benefit for private profit and interests, we see the role it has for social and cultural regeneration. It is our biggest asset for our collective future as a place we feel proud to live and promote.”