New Year’s Message

Welcome to my first message as Chair of the Insole Court Trust, which I hope will help inform you about what’s happening in Insole Court, the challenges we’ve faced over the past year, and our hopes for the year ahead.

2022 was not an easy year for Insole Court. First came further lockdowns from the Omicron strain of Covid, which again required us to close and disrupted our activities and events. During this period, we had no further support from Covid-relief programmes, but still had to keep staff in post and bills paid, which we managed. During the summer, and while our team has been rebuilding the business, we have faced further hardship due to the financial and energy crisis, which has drastically increased operating costs. Many excellent charities and hospitality venues have not weathered these storms, but we are determined to succeed and have already implemented a recovery plan. Our success is still dependent on generating income and so we ask everyone to continue making Insole Court your venue of choice!

As most know, Gray Hill, our Director, left us just before Christmas. Gray had been with us since Insole Court first reopened to the public in 2016, and we thank him for his unerring commitment and hard work, particularly during the pandemic. We are presently seeking a talented and equally dedicated successor, with applications closing on January 6th.

Despite considerable challenges, not everything has been doom and gloom. During the past year, the Potting Shed has been renewed and revitalised, and sincere thanks must be given to the team for keeping Insole Court’s beloved café alive, in spite of really difficult circumstances. Please do make a resolution to come and taste the excellent menu.

We now have an almost full complement of tenants in the East Wing, replacing the Montessori School’s five year tenure. We also have a range of classes on offer. Wedding and party bookings are encouraging, and we have great plans for renewing the House kitchen, enabling us to provide a full professional catering offer to weddings, parties, receptions, meetings and community activities.

Our strong team of dedicated volunteers has also contributed massively to the revival of the site. The Archive Research Group continues to provide essential Heritage support. In partnership with the Council’s Parks Department, the Gardens volunteers have transformed flower beds and public areas, making Insole Court Gardens a pleasure to visit. Our House volunteers provide a vital service, welcoming visitors and giving information about the House and our audio-visual tour, This House is a Stage, as well as leading group tours. Likewise, the Gift Shop volunteers provide invaluable support to staff by answering telephone and in-person enquiries, looking after stock and taking payments. Our Butler’s Books second hand bookshop in the Mansion is flourishing, thanks to a small team of dedicated, efficient volunteers. The Community Fundraising team continue to raise funds via a variety of events. Last but not least is an ad hoc group of volunteers who assist Guy, our Compliance and Maintenance Manager. No charity can succeed without its volunteers, and Insole Court’s team is exceptionable. We, literally, would not survive without them. So, if you have a few hours to spare on a regular basis, we would love you to join us. Just get in touch with Heledd Jones, our volunteer co-ordinator.

We welcome everyone to become actively involved in our path to recovery, after the challenges of the past several years. We plan to hold an event in the near future to give you the opportunity to talk to trustees, staff and volunteers about what is happening on site, and how you can make your personal contribution to the success of our Insole Court community.

Insole Court continues to be a much-loved and incredibly important place, saved by the community for the community, and with a rich and diverse history and heritage. I am very proud that we have come so far, and I look forward to continuing our journey and our story.

I wish you a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Valerie Mitchell

Insole Court Trust Chair

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