New Ways of using Redundant Church Buildings.
Champing was started by the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) in 2015. Working with the Diocese of Canerbury they started with a pilot church at Fordwich to raise awareness and to encourage volunteers to manage the scheme. Champing (Church camping) is not a new activity but has been re-imagined for the 21st Century in making church buildings accessible to a new tourism audience. Fordwich was chosen as it is one of the churches on the Way of St Augustine pilgrimage route. This opened up possibilities of short pilgrimages of 1 or 2 days with the possibbility of staying overnight in an historic building.
Main Stakeholders and beneficiaries – The main stakeholders are the Churches Conservation Trust and the Diocese of Canterbury. The beneficiaries include local businesses such as pubs and shops within the village community. Explore Kent from Kent County Council set up and signed the pilgriamge route of St Augustine's Way. The volunteers who run the project are also involved in the local historical society and are able to expand their reach in sharing cultural information.
Officer time is needed to promote the project and work with local volunteers, businesses and stakeholders. Practical resources are also required such as temporary lavatories, signposts, and access to water.
Evidence of success
Over the last two years, there has been an increase in “letting” the church to “Champers” throughout the year. Champing has received considerable media coverage in printed formats, and on television.
Figures for a single church in Kent can be seen below showing an increase in use linked to marketing efforts.
ST MARY THE VIRGIN FORDWICH (KENT)
Although the numbers seem initially small this is a very important revenue stream for small rural churches.
Ensuring that all the practical needs were resourced. Engaging with the local volunteers about their perceived risks and fears in opening up their church to visitors overnight.
Potential for learning or transfer
There is considerable work being undertaken on the use of places of worship, and working with volunteers in finding new ways of using heritage buildings. In England, due to the strong voluntary ethos and practice, we are being asked by European partners how this is achieved when they have relied on State funding for the buildings. This project shows that using historical details, buildings and networks it is easy to re-imagine the use of a heritage building for the present generation.
The project shows that it is possible to create a new constituency of interest in a heritage building/place of worship beyond liturgical use. In England, churches have always been considered to be community buildings (school, hospital, library, market place) so the project is reinvigorating the historical uses of the building. From the visitors comments, they have valued the experience as something “new” and "daring".
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