Tuesday, 5 February 2008

From grot to grandeur

Today I visited the Gorton Monastery for the first time since 1996. It is now a conference and banqueting venue which has been restored by the Gorton Monastery Trust. Their website describes how they saved the building from rack and ruin:

Whilst a in a BBC news report the visionary behind the Trust is quoted:
Elaine, 51, from Lower Peover near Knutsford, said: "I can remember the first time I visited the monastery. I was amazed when I came through the doors and thought someone must do something to save it.

What she fails to say is how she came to be walking through those doors. A section of the Monastery's history has been airbrushed from the news reports.

The reality is that a community activist called Cae Guest saw that the Monastery was falling down and set up "The Monastery Campiagn". He squatted the building, started to clean it up, organised open days for the public and acheived extensive media coverage. It was on one of those open days that Mrs Griffiths and her husband who used to be a choirboy at the Monastery
walked through the doors. And I know all this because I was there.
See Moastery Madness article:

Congratulations to them for their years of hard work and fundraising in restoring the building, but don't ignore one of the reasons why it happened: squatting!

Although it was very nice to sit in posh chairs at a posh table with posh vases and posh lunch, I can't help wonder what it would have been like if Cae and the community had access to funding in the way that Elaine Griffiths from Lower Peover, Knutsford did.
The initial plans were for an internet cafe (would have been the first in Gorton), youth club, climbing wall, training space for the unemployed, etc - you get the picture - a community resource in a splendid building...

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