Skills for life

Funding level: £1,001 to £5,000


Our project, based in the Harrold Centre in the village of Harrold, will provide our community with the opportunity to learn a variety of new skills: digital, analytical and organisational, and will also enhance the social cohesion and sense of community amongst both learners and supporting volunteers. The population of Harrold and the surrounding villages, about 3000 people, will share the potential benefits. We are requesting funding to provide the necessary infrastructure.

Located in the heart of the village, the Harrold Centre is more than a building and the activities taking place within it. It is where people can become involved in village life. It was donated to the village over 100 years ago by leather industry philanthropist Charles Pettit to provide the leather workers with a place of recreation and learning.

The old building had begun to fall into a poor state of repair and no longer met the requirements of a larger village with new and wider needs. It has recently had a major extension and facelift achieved through the financial support of grant funding bodies and community fund raising. The village now has a modern, fit for purpose, community space.

We now aspire to update the activities that take place in the Centre and to revive the building as an educational space for the community. We have identified two specific opportunities.

The first is a drop-in internet café which will provide a venue for local people to socialise, and will be manned by local volunteers. Within this informal atmosphere we will provide facilities and training in digital skills. As well as general help and support in how to use basic IT functions, it will also provide access to the digital world for those without home-based facilities. The opportunity exists for specific training sessions in, for instance, how to keep safe online, or how to use price comparisons, thus providing potential economic benefit to our learners.

The expectation is that we will particularly attract older people currently, perhaps, feeling left behind by the digital age. A further benefit will be to decrease any sense of isolation both for learners and volunteers and to attract new visitors to the Centre.
To achieve this end, we need equipment including improved broadband, computers, and the occasional hire of a professional trainer.

The second educational intent is a permanent local heritage exhibition. The Centre holds a significant place in Harrold’s history and the exhibition will show a narrative history of the building and the local leather trade. It will provide a modern, relaxed learning environment including displays, and printed reference materials. The educational facility will be operated in collaboration with the National Leather Collection based in nearby Northampton who have agreed to the loan of various temporary exhibits. The final leather factory in the village closed in 1985 and we also aim to gather oral histories from members of the community who worked in the industry. The facility will welcome visits from local people and schools, historical societies, and community groups, connecting existing and future generations with their past and encouraging engagement and participation in local history.
Funding is required for equipment and materials to support the exhibition and display cases for leather industry artefacts.

As well as the education gained by the learners, both the digital and history projects will provide an opportunity for volunteers and supporters to develop new skills in teaching, historical research, and helping to run and organise these activities.

In summary we aim to make the Harrold Centre a place where the community can develop a variety of skills to make their lives easier and more fulfilling, and where local people feel that they belong to a social network and they are therefore more likely to feel they fit in, are cared for, and valued.

Harrold Institute

Moment of Pride

We are proud of our community, the way it has pulled together and harnessed the diversity of skills that has been required to refurbish the Harrold Centre. We are proud of our industrial history and we want to use this project to secure that pride, community spirit, and our heritage into the future.

Location: Harrold