The Birmingham Children’s Community Venture was established by a group of volunteer teachers in 1960 and as an independent Hostel since 1969. The group received financial support from Atherstone Rotary Club, local farmers and charity events such as sponsored walks to fund the building of the Hostel. The land was offered to the BCCV by Sir William Dougdale at a ‘peppercorn’ rent of £1 annually.
The original aim of the Venture was to establish a small residential centre in the countryside close to Merevale (Warwickshire), where school children could visit, have residential stays and participate in supervised outdoor educational activities where there is no equivalent statutory provision in the area.
Since its origin the Centre has been gradually developed to create a safe warm and secure environment for children between the ages of 4 to 18 to stay. A member group of 20 schools have been able to send 30 children to stay overnight and week-ends, (approx. 2,000 per annum) and a further 7,800 children (approx.) were able to take advantage of day visits each year.
The children who use the Centre all live in inner city urban environments, the majority of whom are from minority ethnic communities with high levels of social exclusion and unemployment. A large number of pupils who will attend the new centre are entitled to free school meals. Spending time at Merevale Children’s Centre will enhance considerably the life experience of children who otherwise would not have this opportunity. The experience of staying at the Centre will enable children to develop their social, emotional and interpersonal skills as well as their self-esteem. Partnership schools pay an annual subscription to BCCV and children’s families are charged minimal costs.
In December 2005 the Hostel was set on fire by vandals and the building was destroyed; the first time the building has had to close since 1969. Since that time the trustees have endeavoured to get a new building built as quickly as possible. It has taken the trustees ten years to achieve this and on the tenth anniversary of the fire that destroyed the old building the new building was handed over to the trustees.
The insurer paid the full insured amount and BCCV secured planning permission for the redevelopment of the site. However, major changes in legislation had added costs to the building over and above those that had been expected. To reduce the centre’s carbon foot print and to comply with up to date Health and Safety Laws the trustees were faced with a short fall in order to complete the project and have a new building, equipped and in the right external setting.
The trustees have overcome the shortfall of money needed to build The BrigHouse with the help of local and national Charities and Trusts and membership donations and have been able to install appropriate equipment which ensured that the building was opened at the beginning of the new school year – September 2016.