St Winfrid’s Church in Totton is to be transformed into a community hub that serves the needs of everyone in the area. The transformation of the church will have a huge positive impact on the community. It will become not just a place of worship, but also a one stop shop for local people, providing free debt advice, counselling, child care, friendship and a range of therapies.
The central emphasis, however, will be on addressing social isolation through creative involvement in programmes that get people doing things, for example adult choirs that promote well-being.
Isolation and loneliness is increasingly being recognised as a major problem in society. It can lead to a range of mental health conditions which are difficult and costly to treat, such as anxiety, depression and stress. The new creative hub at St Winfrid’s will provide a safe place where people can come for companionship and support that will help to prevent social isolation, as well as offering practical help with other issues. Evidence suggests that about a fifth of patients visiting GPs have a social rather than medical problem, and the support offered at St Winfrid’s will help people tackling such issues.
St Winfrid’s already runs a number of services for the local community, such as Ickle Village, an interactive role play centre based in the church. Ickle Village offers young children somewhere to play and learn as well as giving their parents a place to come and socialise, benefitting from mutual support. Launched just a month ago, Ickle Village is already welcoming 500 people through its doors a week. This venture is virtually unique and very different to a pre-school approach.
The range of existing activities already offered at the church will be supported by a community Café, which will act as the gateway to the services available. These include help for those struggling with debt, benefits advice, counselling, domestic violence awareness and cancer support.
The proposals to transform the church will also capitalise on its excellent acoustics by creating a regular concert and conference venue. In association with this there will be a creative music space, which will include tuition and recording studios, and will also offer apprenticeships to help those wanting to gain experience of the music industry. Smaller spaces of various sizes will also be built which community support groups will be able to use.
Speaking about the project, St Winfrid’s vicar, Rev Chris Steed, said:
“Our emphasis is on addressing social isolation through creativity. The creative hub will be at the centre of a new transformational approach to social isolation. It is about making the most of people’s strengths rather than focusing on their needs, encouraging participation in music and the arts. Our innovative hub will be a catalyst for activities that will help foster active communities, addressing isolation and breaking negative patterns of behaviour. We hope that our pilot project here in Totton will act as a model which can be replicated across the country.”
The parish hopes to raise £2.5 million to fund the regeneration project, which will enable the church to grow its role at the heart of the community.