It fills me with pride and at times tears of joy to see how Marsden Mechanics has become such an integral part of our community, knowing that I’ve played a role in helping it get to where it is today. But the pride and tears aren’t for me and my efforts, it’s about seeing so many people now having the benefit of those endeavours.
I want to emphasise that no one person can do these things alone. At every stage in the history of bringing the Mechanics back to life as a central point of its community, a team of people have been involved. Without that, none of this could have been achieved. I happen to have been around for most of it, is all.
In February 2020, we had a Big Quiz fundraising event at the Mechanics. The main hall was packed with about 150 people. The place had been burgled some weeks before, with some vandalism, heating breakdown and storm damage, and all these people had turned up to help raise money towards replacing and repairing our losses. I went up to the projection box, looked out and thought, “nobody knows all that’s gone into making this happen”. But that didn’t matter. It was seeing all those people smiling – a private pleasure.
My professional background is in built environment so I understand that buildings are important for shaping a community. In Marsden the elements that give the place its character include the mills, the distinctive landscape and the more ornate architecture in the village centre, with the Mechanics being the most significant and influential building in terms of heritage and character.
When I first moved to Marsden with my wife, the Mechanics was semi-derelict and crying out to be restored. It had clearly been a central part of community life and I felt motivated when I was approached by an architect friend to get involved in a project to restore the hall to use. When you’re approached in those situations you either run the other way quickly, or you’re hooked. I’ve been hooked now for the best part of 40 years and there’s still work to be done.
Using my professional background, during that time I’ve helped reshape committees, formed new organisations – I was the founding chair of the Marsden Community Association – helped us inherit the building from Kirklees Council via an asset transfer and helped to get through numerous times of crisis.
The last twelve months aside and with the help of so many people over the years, together we’ve sustained a library and a place for entertainment, day time activities for all sorts of groups and made the Mechanics once again a central place for our community to enjoy.
My strength has always been in building and mending. Other people are amazing at keeping the wheels oiled and getting the best out of the building as an asset. The emotional investment has been huge and most of it has been exhilarating and buoyant, packed full of happy memories.
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Thank you to Tom for sharing this story after participating in one of our “How can more people come together to make local places better?” online workshops for Kirklees citizens.