Exhibition space opened at Keld Resource Centre

Ernest Whitehead cuts the ribbon.

A remarkable regeneration of community buildings in the Swaledale village of Keld has reached another milestone, with the official opening of the top floor of the Keld Resource Centre.

A large crowd watched lifelong Keld resident Ernest Whitehead cut a red ribbon on the steps of the Grade II listed building, formerly the Keld Literary Institute.

The Upper Room exhibition space will complement the Countryside and Heritage Centre, which opened in 2011, a ‘well-being’ garden and a recently created community orchard.

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It will be used for craft demonstrations, exhibitions and lectures, providing opportunities for visitors, local people and schoolchildren to learn about the area’s heritage.

The work was part-funded by two grants totalling nearly £19,000 from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund.  The total cost of the project was £168,000.

Keld Resource Centre also received £17,761 from the Communities Opportunity Fund (COF).

The authority’s chairman, Carl Lis, attended the opening on Friday 28 April, which marked the start of the four-day Keld Festival.

He said: “The Keld Resource Centre charity has raised a prodigious amount of money during the past few years to restore buildings which lie at the heart of the village.  I was delighted to see the work first hand and received a warm welcome.

“The Upper Room is a gem. It’s going to be a great space for showcasing local heritage, arts and crafts.  The programme of events which has grown up around the restored buildings is clearly bringing people in to this remote rural community.”

The chair of the Keld Resource Centre Trustees, David Figures, said: “We are enormously proud that the once derelict upper floor of the Keld Literary Institute is now a very attractive conference and events venue. It was good to celebrate it, and to thank publicly the multitude of people who have helped us in many different ways.”

Councillor John Blackie, who as leader of Richmondshire District Council between instigated the Communities Opportunity Fund, said:  “The Keld Resource Centre was exactly the sort of brilliant community project that was a feature of the grants made by the Communities Opportunity Fund.

“It restored a sense of self-esteem to the iconic deeply rural Upper Dales community that is Keld, reversing the sad story of dereliction and decline that was becoming evident there.

“The Communities Opportunity Fund also invested £17,000 in the Public Hall in Keld, and overall £150,000 in projects in Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.”

The Keld Resource Centre is a charity which developed from the community’s desire to make productive use of three Grade II listed buildings owned by the United Reformed Church – the former Manse, School and Literary Institute.

Rather than see them sold for commercial, residential or private holiday home use, local people were determined to see them restored for the benefit of the whole community and visitors to the area.

The Manse and the Literary Institute are now fully restored and back in use.

The next and final phase of the project is to renovate the school and find fresh uses for it.

More details about the Sustainable Development Fund can be found on the National Park Authority website at www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/sdf .