Marsh Awards for Innovative Projects 2016 - Shortlist


Marsh Christian Truat


The National Churches Trust has announced its first shortlist of community projects. ‘The Marsh Awards for Innovative Projects’ is a competition to find the Christian congregations running the most innovative community projects in a church building made possible through the installation of new facilities such as meeting spaces, kitchens, toilets or improved access in the last two years

Run with the support of the Marsh Christian Trust, the new Awards are designed to show the positive impact installing facilities has on churches and local communities and on harnessing the energy and enthusiasm of volunteers. The Marsh Christian Trust seeks to reward those who go unrecognised in their unpaid work to improve society and their community.

The awards were open to any Christian congregation in the UK which is a member of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and which had seen the installation of new facilities in 2014 or 2015. 

The winner

The winners of the Marsh Awards 2016 were announced at the Churches Trusts Forum Annual Conference in York on 19 May 2016 by the Dean of Wakefield, the Very Revd Jonathan Greener. 

Judges were Emily Reeves, from the Marsh Christian Trust; Clare De Silva, from C Squared Consultants; and the Revd Canon Dr Mandy Ford, Canon Chancellor and Director of Ministerial Education for the Diocese of Southwark and Trustee of the National Churches Trust.

Key judging criteria:

Impact – the level of demonstrable social benefit.

Best practice in management – the level of planning, organization, effort and coordination within the means and circumstances of the project organisers.

Imagination – the origin of the idea and reasons for the project.

Need – How deprived or marginalised communities are served by the project.


There are seven shortlisted projects, each showing a high level of community engagement and innovative use of church space. 

Blagdon - The Space@St Andrew’s, St Andrew’s Church, Blagdon, North Somerset

St Andrew’s parish church in Blagdon, North Somerset, has created ‘The Space@St Andrew’s’, a flexible open area in the church to increase its use by a variety of community organisations.
They include ‘Prayers & Bears’, a toddler group; ‘Monday Mix’, a weekly social afternoon with games, handicrafts, and tea and cake; ‘Wi-Fi Wednesday’, helping villagers of all ages to use mobile phones and the internet; exhibitions by local artists as part of the Chew Valley Arts Trail; and the Blagdon Mosaic Project, which created a permanent depiction of village life. The activities are all run by volunteers and self-funded by participants.
The village of Blagdon had no community meeting space, and members of the congregation and the wider community established a desire for the church to be more accessible for community use.
The first phase of the £218,000 project provided a flexible space by removing some pews, and moving the font away from the main entrance door. The installation of a mezzanine floor created a meeting room and toilets. The second phase of the project provided a fully accessible toilet and baby changing room, a utility room, and a kitchen with servery.

  • Mosaic Project

  • Card making workshop

  • Chew Valley Arts Trail

  • Dementia Awareness Talk

  • Flower arranging workshop

  • Monday Mix

  • Prayers and Bears

  • Wi-Fi Wednesday

Fenham – The Café @ J’s & B’s, St James and St Basil’s Church, Fenham, Newcastle upon Tyne

The Café @ J’s & B’s is a community café at St James and St Basil’s church, Newcastle upon Tyne. The area has few community and cultural resources, and the café fulfils the unmet need for a place for people to meet and participate in activities, serving coffee, cake, soup, and bacon sandwiches.
The Café hosts a drop-in session for young parents in an area where there are few such facilities or opportunities to meet. There are also groups for older people who have no network of support; and groups facilitated by Age UK of men from the Asian community who live on their own and who have limited opportunity for social interaction.
The availability of refreshments has also enabled the development of a series of monthly Saturday concerts at St James and St Basil’s.

  • Age UK Group

  • Plenty of space!

  • Pop-up restaurant

Hamilton – St Mary’s For All, St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Hamilton

St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Hamilton, has built an extension to connect the church to the church hall, creating a new space for hospitality and conversation. The parish intends to be a Christian response to the needs of its wider community, which faces the challenges of its post-industrial context.
The space is used by a variety of church and community groups, including Circle Lanarkshire, which provides support for families in challenging circumstances; a family mediation and counselling service; Women’s Aid Hamilton; Girl Guiding; Beavers, Cubs and Scouts; the St Mary’s Church Choir; Alcoholics Anonymous; Messy Church; and St Mary’s children’s groups.
The space is also available for private hire, hosting baby showers and ceilidhs. The Diocese has used the space for its Ministerial Development programme, and has plans for conferences.
There had long been a recognition that the Victorian church building needed alteration to be fit for different forms of worship. The construction of a linking space between the church and the church hall provides an informal gathering space, a café, a large kitchen, better access to the church, and parking.
St Mary’s hopes to develop a social enterprise based on a commercially successful café.

  • Opening ceremony

  • Opening ceremony

  • Opening ceremony

Hemblington – All Saints Church Events Committee, All Saints, Hemblington, Norfolk

The Events Committee at All Saints Church, Hemblington, was formed to develop their previously underused Grade 1 Listed building. They have increased the number of regular users of the church, bringing together the community in new and traditional ways, particularly around nature and engagement with heritage.
This use has been enabled by changes to the access and facilities available at the church. There is level access for people with reduced mobility, and a wheelchair accessible toilet. This has allowed for much longer events to be held at the church.
Groups who have regularly met in the church in the past include children’s craft events, craft fairs, a quiet day, and ‘Make and Mardle’, a monthly meeting for coffee, cake, and chat. They are now able to extend their usage because of the new facilities.
New events include presentations by local wildlife experts; a study day on the architecture of the church attended by 45 delegates; a visit from the University of the Third Age; and a presentation on conservation by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.

  • Big Churchyard Birdwatch

  • Church study day

  • Dereham U3A visit

  • Nature on your doorstep

  • Norfolk Wildlife Trust conservation group meeting

Ilford – Recycles Club, Salvation Army, Ilford, London

The Recycles Club at the Salvation Army in Ilford, London, is a project where unemployed people work alongside trained bike mechanics, recycling bikes so that they are ready for sale. They aim to recycle bicycles and transform lives.
In 2014, the Salvation Army remodelled the entrance to their building, adding a kitchen, disabled toilet, and creating a multi-use drop in space which also operates as a café. The entrance space makes the building more welcoming, and fit for purpose as a place for those in need.
The Recycles Club provides rough sleepers with the tools to improve their situation, contribute to a worthwhile enterprise, and develop skills which will help them into employment. It also makes the cost of a bike and bike repairs more affordable in one of the most deprived wards in the country.
Volunteers in the café also learn new skills, and participants in Recycles can gain qualifications; for some people, these are the first they have ever achieved.

  • Ilford to Wanstead Santa Ride

  • Recycles Club

Llangarron – The Garron Centre, St Deinst, Llangarron, Herefordshire

St Deinst, Llangarron, on the Welsh border in Herefordshire, remodelled its entire north aisle to create The Garron Centre. This is a venue for coffee after services, weddings and funeral receptions, coffee mornings, and for wider community events.
The Garron Centre hosts a monthly Community Café, art exhibitions, a pop-up restaurant, classes including French and willow weaving, film afternoons, concerts, quiz nights, and private events such as birthday parties.
The building project repaired the north aisle, removed the old pipe organ, created a mezzanine floor, built a kitchen and toilets, put in sliding doors between the new space and the rest of the church, and added underfloor heating, broadband, and solar panels.
It has created a hub for a wide range of social and cultural activities, reducing isolation for the young, the disabled, and the old. This is especially valuable in such a scattered rural community, with no school, shop, or pub.

  • Accessible entrance

  • Community space

  • Kitchen

  • The Garron Centre in use

  • The Garron Centre in use

Pontefract – Lunch With Us, St Giles Parish Church, Pontefract, West Yorkshire

Run in tandem with Wakefield Council’s Food Bank, St Giles parish church in Pontefract has established a weekly meals service called ‘Lunch With Us’. A free family-friendly service, it deals with the increased demand for the Food Bank service from families facing crisis. It attracts an average of 50 people to each session.
To provide the space and facilities necessary, a major project remodelled the church building. This included the complete removal of the existing gallery and stairs, the pews, internal ground floor, and the dais. As well as the café, a new floor with underfloor heating and mezzanine level provide space for 50 people; facilities include two sets of toilets, a kitchen, reception area, and a lift.
Other frequent users of the facilities include a local NHS advice group, a job club, children’s groups, a whist club, Pontefract Art Club, Pontefract Choral Society, Christian Aid, Scouts, a bereavement counselling group, and Slimming World.

  • Community use

  • Lunch With Us

  • Lunch With Us