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Millgate Theatre by Flickr user Jim Grady

Millgate Arts Centre

In December 2012, the Millgate Arts Centre in Delph, Saddleworth installed 4kW of solar PV panels.

The Millgate is an arts centre that also operates as a community centre for almost a quarter of the nights of the year and which includes a volunteer run community library. The Centre hosts theatre, film, concerts, art exhibitions, is available for general hire and is housed in a nineteenth century stone building in the centre of Delph. It has been managed and maintained by the Saddleworth Players since the early 1970s.

The Centre is volunteer run and only has one part-time member of staff who is a cleaner. The volunteer-led nature of the Centre means that much of its financial sustainability is based on generating funds and through partnership working.

In recent years there has been an ongoing programme of repair, maintenance and development. This includes work to create two new flexible community spaces, to complete a disabled access scheme and also the solar panel installation. The solar panels are located on the centre’s roof. The aim is that excess electricity generated is sold back to the national grid and revenue derived via the Feed-in-Tariff.

The Millgate Arts Centre works to understand its energy usage and to achieve greater efficiency and more sustainable energy usage. This included undertaking an energy audit report to understand energy usage and how potential savings could be achieved. What followed from this were a series of responses that included the installation of energy saving light bulbs in the bar area and turning off coolers in the bar.

In addition, a new heating system in the auditorium and time switches to control stage heating were fitted and a number of other general upgrades were carried out. This is part of plans that include relocating a warm air boiler in the future, the upgrading of stage lights and double glazing windows in the library.


An Alternative?


The Millgate Centre is an interesting story about the strengths and limitations of a volunteer run facility such as this one. A vibrant volunteer base sustains not only the functioning of the Centre but also a wide range of events and groups within it. It does so whilst also physically maintaining and regenerating the building. To practically undertake these changes to the building it is necessary to develop capacity through fundraising and also through partnering with other groups and interests.

It is with this approach in mind that it is possible to understand how the Millgate Arts Centre solar initiative became one of the Generating Success project’s Trailblazer projects, which helped with funding the project and the project management.

The Generating Success scheme, which supports community renewable energy, was launched in the Spring of 2012, for 18 months and worked with four Trailblazer projects of which the Millgate Arts Centre was one.

It brought together three Greater Manchester organisations - GMCVO’s Community Hubs team, with expertise in project development and management for communities, with the Carbon Coop with their experience in developing renewables’ supply chains, and MERCi’s Sustaining Change initiative, with their experience in supporting sustainable change.

The Millgate Arts Centre was able to draw on this expertise that otherwise would not have been available and also to provide another context within which to understand the relationship between organization and the installation of community renewables.



This article was written using publically available sources: Hire

This article is published here as part of the Greater Manchester Local Interaction Platform’s aspiration to raise the visibility of different community innovations, grassroots projects and activities in the city-region.

It also draws on SURF's involvement in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council grant, 'Retrofit 2050' and contributes to understanding of the Remaking of the Material Fabric of the City.

Find out here about the background, purpose and content of ‘The Alternative?’ series of articles on Platform.

Main image from Flickr user Jim Grady, published here under a Creative Commons licence.