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Prestigious European Heritage Award for Faith in Maintenance.

Faith in Maintenance course


7 April 2010

A unique British scheme to provide free training for people from all faith communities who care for significant, historic buildings as their place of worship has been recognised with a major European heritage award. Faith in Maintenance, developed by Britain's oldest conservation charity, SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings), has received a prestigious award for Education, Training and Awareness-Raising from Europa Nostra, the Pan-European Federation of Cultural Heritage.

FiM is one of 29 ‘laureate' projects from across Europe now eligible for one of six Grand Prix awards to be announced in Istanbul in June.*  Grand Prix winners will be acclaimed as Europe's most outstanding examples of heritage protection for 2010. FiM is one of just three UK ‘laureate' projects, the others being St Davids Bishop's Palace in Wales, and St Martin-in-the-Fields, London - both recognised in the Conservation category. FiM is the only UK project to win an award for Education this year.

Since 2002, the annual European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards scheme has celebrated outstanding initiatives within Europe's heritage sector. By "spreading the power of example", the Awards seek to encourage projects related to heritage protection throughout Europe, with the key aim of stimulating the cross-border exchange of knowledge and expertise. Describing FiM as an "exemplary initiative" the judges said that SPAB's scheme to train and create a volunteer inspection network for the maintenance of places of worship was an "inspirational model".

Places of worship are integral to the landscape of Britain, representing centuries of belief, craftsmanship and design. Yet many of our most precious faith-related buildings are in desperate need of repair and rely on the help of local supporters.  SPAB's FiM project brings direct assistance to the army of volunteers who look after a variety of these buildings in both England and Wales.

FiM is led by architect and former SPAB Scholar Sara Crofts. She says: "The project had been specifically designed to help faith communities take effective steps to look after their places of worship. We bring our courses and practical, hand-on experience directly to them in the form of a one-day course that is accessible, informative and, hopefully, enjoyable.""Few churchwardens, for example, have relevant training, yet they are responsible for nearly half of England's grade I listed buildings. They already do an excellent job, but the free training and information we offer enhances their work and gives them the confidence to take the right steps for their building."

Since its inception in 2007, FiM has already held 76 courses nationwide, attracting more than 2500 people. In 2010, at least 30 more courses will run at locations from Alnwick in the North East to Truro in Cornwall.  Along with the practical courses FiM has also produced support tools, including a maintenance handbook, monthly e-bulletin, website and a DVD.

FiM has been generously supported by the HLF, English Heritage and other partners. Diana Evans, Head of Places of Worship Advice at English Heritage, says "This is a great achievement on the part of the Faith in Maintenance team and a well-deserved tribute to the SPAB's vision. This practical and down-to-earth approach to maintaining historic places of worship is giving confidence and encouragement to thousands of local volunteers.  Their crucial work often goes unnoticed so it is brilliant that this award gives international recognition to those who keep gutters clear!"

Philip Venning, SPAB Secretary, adds: "Historic buildings are vitally important to the heart of communities where it is often the people themselves who play a crucial role in preserving the past. It has become absolutely clear that volunteers genuinely want to learn about the buildings they care for so that they can do the right things to protect and maintain them. The response to our courses has been overwhelming, demonstrating a real need for this kind of advice. We are delighted that the positive impact of FiM has been acknowledged, not just here in the UK, but in Europe now too."  

Positive comments include about FiM days include:

  • "I came out of a sense of duty, not expecting anything other than the mundane, but being able to go out and look with new eyes afterwards was brilliant. I came home totally enthused."
  • "I think that we all came away having learnt something, but much more importantly came away feeling invigorated, more confident and less alone."
  • "The enthusiasm of Sara Crofts was palpable and inspiring, her expertise undoubted. What might have been a ‘dry as dust' excursion into lurking decay was a revelation and a most enjoyable day."


Notes to Editors

For more information/images contact Kate Griffin, SPAB press office, 0207 456 0905.

FiM has been made possible through an HLF grant of £645,000 with a further £125,000 from English Heritage.  The remainder has been match-funded by SPAB and other partners. The DVD has been funded by grants of £25,000 each from The Pilgrim Trust and from The Dulverton Trust.

One of the key aspects of the scheme is that free training will be available to any faith group using a historic building for its worship. Around 45% of Grade 1 listed buildings in England are maintained by the Church of England, but other faiths, some relatively new to this country, make use of redundant churches and chapels, or other historic buildings adapted for worship.

Attending a Faith in Maintenance training course provides volunteers with:

  • An appreciation of the importance of historic places of worship
  • An understanding of traditional building materials and construction
  • The ability to recognize potential problems
  • Information on how to tackle common maintenance tasks
  • Access to specialist professional advice
  • Opportunities to share experiences with other volunteers

Along with protecting significant historic structures, the project will also encourage more people to become actively involved in their local community's heritage while broadening and strengthening their own skills base. Volunteers find out more about maintenance and decay, Health and Safety, legislative issues, managing relationships with professional advisors and builders, planning ahead and monitoring. 

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

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Using money raised through The National Lottery, the HLF sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums parks and historic places, to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported 33,900 projects, allocating £4.4 billion across the UK.  To find out more visit

Europa Nostra represents some 250 non-governmental organisations,160 associate organisations and 1400 individual members from more than 50 countries who are fully committed to safeguarding Europe's cultural heritage and landscapes. Together, they provide a powerful network for dialogue and debate, celebrate the best heritage achievements; campaign against threats to vulnerable heritage buildings, sites and landscapes, and lobby for sustainable policies and high quality standards with regard to heritage. To find out more visit

*The awards will be presented during the 8th Annual European Heritage Awards ceremony, taking place in Aya Irini in Istanbul, Turkey on 10th June 2010 as part of the Europe Nostra Annual Congress. These events contribute to the celebration of Istanbul as a European Capital of Culture 2010 and are included in the official programme of Istanbul 2010. The awards will be presented by Mrs Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner responsible for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and by Denis de Kergorlay, Executive President of Europa Nostra.

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