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100 courses, 3000 trained volunteers and a major award - three reasons to celebrate!

Europa Nostra Award


10 September 2010

Faith in Maintenance (FiM), a unique British scheme to provide free training for volunteers from all faith communities who care for significant, historic buildings as their place of worship has three reasons to celebrate next week. As well as running its landmark 100th course - taking the total of people trained to 3000 - FiM will officially receive a major European cultural heritage award at a ceremony in London.

Faith in Maintenance has been developed by Britain’s oldest conservation charity, SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings). Fittingly, its 100th course will take place on 11 September in London at the hugely significant Wesley’s Chapel in City Road, known as the ‘Mother Church of World Methodism’. Built by John Wesley in 1778, this was the first Methodist church to be purpose-built for the celebration of Holy Communion and preaching. Even more significantly for FiM, however, this course brings the total number of volunteers who have received targeted maintenance training to 3000.

This achievement has been recognised by Europa Nostra, the Pan-European Federation of Cultural Heritage which this year named FiM as one of 29 outstanding ‘laureate’ heritage protection projects from across Europe. FiM gained a prestigious award for Education, Training and Awareness-Raising. The award will be presented officially at an event on September 17 at the church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate in the City of London.

Since 2002, the annual European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards scheme has celebrated exceptional 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 Europa Nostra judges hailed SPAB’s scheme to train and create a volunteer inspection network for the maintenance of places of worship as 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 who says: “The project had been specifically designed to help all sorts of faith communities take effective steps to look after their places of worship. We bring our expertise 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, 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.”

Notes to Editors

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

FiM is one of just three UK Europa Nostra ‘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.

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 Dulverton Trust and The Pilgrim 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.

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.

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