Birmingham Conservation Trust first became involved with the Coffin Works in 2001, when we carried out a feasibility study on the options for the future of the building. The option that was chosen was to turn about half of the factory into a heritage attraction and convert the other half into commercial units for let. Rental income from the commercial units would help to cover the cost of running the heritage attraction and maintaining the building. It has taken 12 years, and many ups and downs, but now the vision is at last about to become a reality. Time for a celebration!
Last week the official ‘Permission to Start’ from the Heritage Lottery Fund finally landed on the Trust’s desk. On Wednesday this week members of the Trust and our design team will be interviewing shortlisted specialist building contractors to make our selection, and work on site is scheduled to start in April.
Meanwhile work is also starting on creating the materials we will need for our visitor attraction. On Monday we will be interviewing shortlisted comunity film-makers and makers of ‘digital interactives’ to put on iPads. A ‘Biffa Award’ from AIM (Association of Independent Museums) will enable us to make three short films about aspects of the factory, and create four different tours to upload onto iPads. Young people from the local community will play a key role in making the films, and shooting will start before the restoration works begins so that we can capture the building as it is now.
By the spring of next year the restoration work is scheduled to be complete and the contents of the factory will be returned to where we found them after it closed in 1999 – including the drinks in the Director’s drinks cupboard!
The Trust will also be moving its offices to the Coffin Works, which will enable us to work much more closely with our volunteers and supporters than the present arrangements allow. The next big celebration will be the Opening Ceremony, when our heritage attraction will finally open to the public, hopefully in July 2014.