Exactly two years ago I wrote about the crisis affecting Portland Works, which at the time was threatened with closure and conversion into flats.
I asked about a campaign group and I found them, the group has grown and has been working ever since to secure a permanent future for the works.
It’s been an amazing experience and we are now a strong core of people, some of them tenants at the works, others like myself who are just ‘interested’ and others with professional expertise.
Our group has established a Community Benefit Society to own and run the works on cooperative principles, financed by the community. We’re all volunteers, there’s no state money, no banks involved, no speculators, just honest use of hard cash.
We’ve put on many events, including three open days this year, where response has been overwhelmingly positive, and have plans to set up a small heritage centre within the works if we succeed in buying it.
There is a huge history behind the works, the birthplace of stainless steel manufacturing which still contains a working forge and hosts many independent skilled craftspeople, artists and musicians.
Two years on and the threat of residential development is still there but our group is in constructive negotiations with the owners, with an agreement to sell.
Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of Sheffielders and a few from further afield, we have raised over £120,000 in community share sales and have arranged loans (from an architectural charity) to take us further.
We hope to finalise the purchase of the works early in the New Year.
But we still need at least £80,000 in sales to get to our target by the end of January, which is quite a big ‘ask’.
I’d like to think that there are more of you who’d like to support this great project, which will ensure a fine building is restored and jobs and skills are retained.
We can maintain the long tradition of small-scale, highly-skilled and creative work at Portland Works. Can you help us get there? There’s much more on our website, www.portlandworks.co.uk
And if we don’t get there? The building will be sold to developers, with the inevitable results....