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Faith in Maintenance reaches 650 volunteers in first six months.

David John giving technical advice

Date

1 August 2007

By the end of October 2007 more than 650 people will have attended one of SPAB's free Faith in Maintenance courses. These one-day events, held at locations throughout the country, have been specifically designed to help the volunteers who look after places of worship (people from all faiths and denominations) to make the right decisions when it comes to maintaining the buildings in their care.

Now SPAB is inviting any faith group or community to get in touch if they are interested in hosting a course next year.

The Faith In Maintenance (FiM) project has been developed by Britain's oldest conservation charity, SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings). The £850,000 scheme has won generous support from the HLF, English Heritage and other partners to bring practical, helpful information to those at the sharp edge of maintenance. Maintenance is key to the survival and continuance of Britain's significant historic buildings and for the last five years SPAB has been the force behind annual public awareness campaign National Maintenance Week, this year running November 16 to 23, to inform and assist anyone who cares for a property, from homeowners to those who maintain public buildings.

Faith in Maintenance is an important expansion of SPAB's work to spread the message of good maintenance and is designed to help the many volunteers across the country who play a vital role in the upkeep of significant places of worship. The first course took place at grade I listed St Michael and All Angels' Church in Croydon in May 2007. The course was fully booked with a waiting list - a pattern that has continued for subsequent courses.

By the end of October 2007 Faith in Maintenance days will have been held in Newport on the Isle of Wight, Betws-y-Coed, Rotherham, Ipswich, Sandhurst, Carlisle, Tondu, Sandhurst, Norwich, Chippenham, Bexhill, Alvechurch, Truro, Kendal, Croydon and at several locations in London. In addition FiM architectural workshops for young people will have taken place in Cheltenham and in Islington.

SPAB's Faith in Maintenance team is now looking for venues for 2008 and is keen to work with all faith groups and denominations to spread the message about the benefits of good maintenance practice as widely as possible. Eight courses for 2008 have already been booked into the FiM diary.

The courses include lectures on the forms and materials of places of worship in the local area; maintenance; managing relationships with building professionals; and health and safety. In the afternoon delegates have the opportunity to put what they have learned into practice using the host building as a case study. This has proved enormously popular as volunteers gain confidence in their own ability to spot potential problems and put forward suggestions as to how they should be addressed.

"It was good to sit and listen to expert advice and guidance, but it was even better to go outside and examine a church building so as to locate many of the problem areas or potential problem areas that had been talked about during the course of the day. Anyone who has responsibility for a church building should grab the opportunity to attend one of these courses. Never will the blindly obvious be put in front of you so helpfully!" Geoffrey Arrand, Archdeacon of Suffolk

The feedback from the courses has been excellent, with one archdeacon declaring that it was "one of the best events to take place in his diocese in recent years". FiM has also received wholehearted support from the National Churches Trust (formerly the Historic Churches Preservation Trust), English Heritage and the Council for the Care of Churches amongst others.

FiM Project director Sara Crofts says: "Although we have visited a wide range of places of worship from the quirky C12 Easton St Peter on the outskirts of Norwich to the Victorian splendour of G E Street's Church of St James the Less near Vauxhall Bridge in London we have witnessed the same problems time and again. Common maintenance issues identified by the delegates have included damaged rainwater goods; blocked drains; broken windows; slipped slates and tiles; and the ubiquitous clumps of weeds sprouting from behind parapets. A particularly worrying issue has been the number of water tanks without an overflow mechanism. In each case we were able to observe the resulting damage to the plaster and internal finishes where water had been steadily overflowing into the base of the walls for some time. This has proved to be a very useful lesson as to the damage water can do if not correctly channelled away from a building."

As part of the project, FiM has produced a maintenance handbook and a calendar that can be pinned on the wall as a handy reminder of those all important gutter cleaning and drain clearing tasks. Copies are given to delegates after the course.

The newly launched Faith in Maintenance website www.spabfim.org.uk contains a wealth of tips and advice designed to help volunteers to look after their places of worship and will be updated as information on grants and listed building controls evolve over the next few years.

New FiM team member, David John, has taken on the role of Technical Adviser and is available to answer queries related to the maintenance and repair of places of worship on Fridays between 9.30am and 4.30pm on 0207 456 0916.

For more information contact Kate Griffin at the SPAB press office on 0207 456 0905 or contact the Faith in Maintenance team on 0207 456 0913.

Notes to Editors

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) was founded by William Morris in 1877 to care for and preserve the UK's architectural heritage. Since its foundation, SPAB has been committed to advise and educate homeowners and building professionals through courses and publications. Following Morris' exhortation to: "Stave off decay by daily care" SPAB is the force behind National Maintenance Week each November. Today it is a dynamic organisation, and registered charity, taking building conservation into the future. To find out more visit www.spab.org.uk

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage. From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks and beauty spots or recording and celebrating traditions, customs and history, HLF grants open up our nation's heritage for everyone to enjoy. It has supported more than 22,500 projects, allocating over £3.6billion across the UK.

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