St Martin’s Reading Room: the grand unveiling…

St Martin’s has a new Reading Room and Community Hall!

It has been 15 years in the planning but it has certainly been worth the wait. It’s taken us that long because it has been no small task for a population of 140 odd people to get the funds and resources needed for such a large project in the right place at the right time. But it has finally happened and we are a very lucky community to have such a brilliant facility that can be used, not only by those of us who live here but also by visitors to St Martin’s.

Practically the entire island turned out for the official opening last Friday (27th) by Mary Evans, St Martin’s oldest resident together with one of the youngest, 4-month Lowenna Walder. Everyone then enjoyed a full-on island party with pasties, pavlova and pints.

In all honesty, it was bit surreal to start with. Stood in such a big and shiny new hall, I found myself looking around at all the familiar faces and for a moment wondering what we were all doing in a shiny new sports hall on the mainland, then having a moment of panic about who was back on St Martin’s looking after the farm – and then realising that I was on St Martin’s and the new hall was finally here!

Here are a few pictures so you can see for yourself what has been achieved…

And this is how it happened –

A new reading room for St Martin’s has been in the pipeline since 1997. The problems with the old building became particularly apparent when someone fell through the floor boards during circuit training!  The Reading Room Committee have run this project from the start, people have come and gone from the committee over the years but Rod Bluff deserves a special mention for sticking with it and investing hours of his time not only to getting the new Reading Room built but also keeping the old one going.  Last year, the hard work finally paid off as final all the funding fell into place.

A lot of funding came from various grants, but an enormous amount of effort has also been made by residents and visitors over the years to raise additional funds.

One memorable adventure started back in 2000 when Andrew and Hilary embarked on a particularly challenging way of raising funds for the reading room. The pair headed to China to complete a 600-mile bike ride! 

Hilary said the bike ride was ‘hard work, but fun looking back!’. Having funded the trip themselves they were able to raise £1,200 for the reading room project. 

Back on the Island, we had the ‘Keys to St Martin’s raffle’  with the prize of a VIP stay on St Martin’s where everything from accommodation and boat trips to postcards complete with stamps was provided by the community.

We also had a number of “Safari Suppers” where people host dinners around the island and other people pay to dine, swapping venues between courses, whilst equally essential to the fundraising efforts were the many coffee mornings and jumble sales.

The whole community and many, many visitors worked incredibly hard to get this project off the ground. After more than a few years of planning and fundraising, numerous grant applications, false starts and set backs, it was incredibly rewarding when, back in October 2012, everyone was able to witness what they had accomplished when mainland building firm S J Quick & Sons started work. Since then, the building project has steamed ahead at full speed. The builders worked through torrential rain, mud and freezing weather to keep the project on track and have fitted into our little community so well that we are going to miss them.

Even a week after the official opening, we are still in awe. The new reading room looks simply amazing!  It’s a fantastic asset for the island that, just like the old one, will be well loved and well used for many years to come. After all, it provides a vital central meeting place for residents and visitors for all sorts of activities such as toddler groups, yoga sessions, racquet sports and our ever popular Safari Suppers! The new reading room also houses a dedicated doctors’ surgery, a fully-functional kitchen and a gym complete with all mod cons so that our gig team (and others, of course) will be able to train and keep fit throughout the year.

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