At the The Ivinghoe Old School Community Hub AGM on Wednesday (22 September 2021) it was announced that the lease held by the Curiositea Rooms for the last 3 years, which is due to come to an end in June 2022, would not be renewed by the hub trustees. There has been much comment about this decision and we, the new trustees, would like to address some of the concerns raised and offer reassurances to the community.
The first thing we would like to highlight is that we, the trustees, have nothing but admiration for the fantastic community spirit and service which Curiositea rooms have established during their time at the Hub. The Curiositea team are also rightfully to be commended for their charitable efforts, in particular over the last two years.
Who has made this decision to not renew the Curiositea Room’s lease?
The Ivinghoe Old School Community Hub was founded and has operated since 2013 as a legal charity whose function is to establish and maintain support for the wellbeing of the people in the communities of Ivinghoe and Pitstone. The Hub is managed by a group of volunteer trustees, whose job it is to preserve and maintain the historical Old School building whilst providing community activities and supporting local charitable endeavours through fundraising activities. The decision to not renew the lease was made by the outgoing trustees and supported by the incoming trustees.
So why have the trustees decided against renewing the lease for Curiositea Rooms?
The Ivinghoe Old School Community Hub operates first and foremost as a charity and a space for the community to come together, and has, in recent years, included a commercially run café: Curiositea Rooms, which pays rent to the Hub charity. With the current lease due to end in June 2022 there is an opportunity for the Hub to move towards its long-term ambition of being a community-run space which can support the Parish, local groups and businesses.
We have seen through the example of other successful community groups that it is possible to operate a community cafe in ways which increase the percentage of funds going directly into the community ‘pot’ whilst still maintaining the professional and welcoming aspect which we know everyone values in a ‘community cafe’ environment. In essence, and without providing exact details on how this would operate, as this is still in discussion, the premise is to move from simply banking modest rent from a commercial and separate business to another operational model which would increase the profits being ploughed back into the community. The trustees have a charitable responsibility to keep these matters under review.
The revenue possible from this kind of operation will likely be substantially higher than it currently is from rental revenue and will enable the Hub to extend its reach and its supportive efforts wider and deeper into the community it represents.
The lease on the café premises at the Hub comes to an end in June of 2022, so it was felt that in order to allow our tenants a maximum of time to consider this their next steps we would give an additional 3 months’ notice.
Those of us involved in this decision all agree that Curiositea Rooms team have set a high standard for what a community café should be, in particular because of their strong emphasis on ‘community’ and we would, of course, really appreciate their assistance with our next steps in our journey to create a vibrant and financially healthy community Hub.