Letter to Members

Dear Member

I am writing to wish you a happy new year and to introduce myself as the new Chief Executive of Stratford Town Trust. Since I came to the post in the autumn I have learnt so much about the work of the Trust and have been impressed by the range of groups, charities and activities that we support. I am committed to continuing the good work carried out by my predecessor Justin Williams and the enthusiastic Town Trust team.

In a year that has seen continuing economic challenges, political uncertainty and a change in high streets and town centres across the UK, we are grateful that, relatively speaking, Stratford upon Avon remains a vibrant town with a buoyant economy.  Nevertheless, challenges remain with more families than ever using the Foodbank and seeking help from Citizen’s Advice South Warwickshire and a continuing need for transport services like UBUS and VASA’s volunteer driver scheme to reduce social isolation within our communities.

In 2018 we awarded 96 grants totalling £2 million to a diverse range of groups including Foodbank, UBUS, DACS (Domestic Abuse Counselling Services) and The Friendship Project. In addition to some of the charities that we regularly support, we were thrilled to award first time grants to number of groups.  The Caterpillar Café, offers drop in support and networking based at Tyler House, welcoming all families but aimed at lone parents with pre-school age children.  JML Table Tennis Club received a grant to help them to buy equipment for the start-up of a new pay and play Table Tennis club for all ages and abilities held at our own Foundation House.  We were proud to support Keep Playing, a group that provide one-to-one swimming lessons for children aged 4 to 11 years who have a physical or sensory disability. Finally, we awarded £143k, our largest grant of this year to Springfield Mind who partner with four local GP surgeries to offer early intervention programme of assistance for patients presenting with early signs of poor mental health.

In addition, we continue to provide financial support to all Stratford upon Avon state schools in line with our Charitable Objects; present a lively programme of afternoon bandstand concerts in the summer; support the allotment holders at our Church Lane site and invite everyone to enjoy the green spaces at Rowley Fields.

In 2019 we would like to award grants to the value of £2 million and from 28th January we invite applications for our first round of grants for the year. We look forward to hearing from all our local charities and groups but are particularly interested to hear from those with innovative ideas based around our key themes of health and wellbeing; reducing isolation; creating meaningful activities for children and young people; providing support at a time of crisis and helping vulnerable communities.

We are especially keen to invite applications from groups and charities that haven’t connected with us before and would like support for initiatives that promote and champion partnership working, bring likeminded groups together to strengthen ambition and, by working together, reach wider and more diverse sections of our community.

In May we were delighted to learn that The Guild Chapel had won the prestigious John Betjeman Award by The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) for the HLF funded Death Reawakened project which saw the Trust working in partnership with historic building consultants and architects, Hawkes Edwards on the conservation of some of the medieval wall paintings.  This was followed in December with the news that our dedicated volunteers have been nominated for the Team of the Year Award at the Pride of Stratford 2019. The winner will be announced at the awards ceremony in February.

Also, in February we celebrate the first birthday of Foundation House, our fabulous community hub on Masons Road. This extraordinary space enables a diverse range of individuals, groups, charities, artists, makers and social enterprise groups to work together in an inclusive, open and welcoming environment. Since we opened, we are proud to have provided a base for 14 groups and activity space for a further 45, helping them to build capacity and resilience in the communities that they represent; fostering long term partnerships which exploit their collective skills and experience. We work with other community providers in Stratford including Town, District and County Councils to improve signposting to practical help, social activities and volunteering opportunities.  If you haven’t visited the building and seen it in action, I would like to warmly welcome you to one of our Community Cafes that takes place on the last Friday of every month. The first one of 2019 takes place on Friday 25th January 10.00 – 11.30am.

Proon Productions, the new operators in Stratford Playhouse have enjoyed their first few shows and events rounding off 2018 with a brilliant traditional family friendly production of Snow White, complete with digital truth telling “mirror mirror” and two teams of local children playing Snow White’s loyal dwarves. Rebecca, Ellis and Phil, the team behind Proon Productions, have a really full and varied programme scheduled for the coming year and we hope that you will continue to support this much loved community-centred venue.

In June you will receive a copy of our new Annual Review for 2018 in a format that we hope you will find more engaging and user friendly. Together with our financial results it will include an overview of our grant making activity for the year.  The statutory accounts will still be available either as a digital download via our website or upon request from our offices.

In the spring work will begin on our Strategic Plan for 2021 – 2026. Our current plan comes to an end in 2020 and we want to ensure that the next one is sufficiently robust to be able to respond to the changing nature of our communities and our town. As members we value your feedback and would like you to contribute to the plan through a series of consultation sessions. More news of this will be announced at our AGM on Wednesday 10th July 2019 at 7pm in The Playhouse. We hope to see you there.

Finally, as members you have a valued voice in the direction of Stratford Town Trust and how we meet the needs of our community. I would be delighted to hear from you with feedback or ideas for future projects that will benefit the people of our town. Please do email me at the address below, or alternatively I am available each Friday morning between 9am and 1pm at our offices on Rother Street.


Yours sincerely

Sara Aspley