The Barn Blog: Week 1

Let’s start from the beginning

Our story begins in December 2021 when Head2Head Sensory Theatre charity took over an old milking barn in a remote hamlet near Oxted, Surrey. It still has the original milking pipes coming out of the wall and is so rural that, if we make too much noise, we upset the horses in the attached barn!!

Determined to make it a drop in centre and special needs’ community hub, we started looking at ways to fund an upgrade. We knew that, as a small, little known charity, we would struggle to raise the funds needed to achieve everything immediately so our plan was to tick off one project at a time – but oh so difficult to prioritise.

Our first achievement, thanks to the Wooden Spoon, Screwfix and B&Q (DIY) was to create a hygiene room. This offers hoist, changing bed and wash/dry facilities for wheelchair users. Our first visitor, well versed in the macerator eccentricities of our existing disabled toilet, opened the door and shouted ‘Wow. It’s amazing’ so we know we are on the right track to create a warm, comfortable and welcoming environment for our visitors.

Now the second project presented a bit more of a problem, at a cost of just over £100,000, to put in suspended ceilings, insulation, fireproofing and to provide separate areas for wardrobe and a sensory space. However, after a lengthy grant application we have been promised £91,200 from Your Fund Surrey to begin our adventure, turning our old milking barn into a community hub for the special needs’ community. But we’d better hurry up as filming of Robin Hood, our multi-sensory pantomime, begins on Monday 15 January. Watch this space to see if we make it in time and what difficulties we (hopefully not!) may encounter as Head2Head embarks on something new and very challenging.

Project Barn is GO!

DAY ONE 7.30am

Three young men standing under scaffolding

A very exciting start to the week for us as the workmen descend on Drewshearne Barn. By 8am our car park is full of vans and the workmen have started stripping away wiring and anything else left on the walls (bye bye 2021 calendar we shall think of you fondly). The only thing left hanging is our notice board full of cheery messages from the young people we entertain. “There is no way they are going to be removed.” Nods of workmen’s heads in agreement, followed by loads of smiles as they looked at the pictures and read the messages on the wall. David, our charity’s volunteer consultant on this project, helped me moved as much as we could out of the way but there were quite a few heavy items that we just could not budge. The workmen just lifted them and moved them out of the way as if they weighed nothing – and without a grumble

or a groan! The plan for today is for the team from Theobald & Hodge to strip out the electrics in preparation for the building work.

A huge Meccano set lies on the floor. Lucky lads … Christmas has come early. Huge silver tubes are gradually connected to platforms, internal ladders and grab rails. In just 45 minutes they have assembled a 9’ scaffolding tower. From its dizzying heights they can reach up into the apex ceiling to dismantle the fan and strip lighting suspended from the roof rafters – and talk with the spiders about relocating their cobwebs.

It is so fascinating to watch them work. I wish I could stay with them all day but I have to get back to the office to sort out some paperwork. Busy, busy, busy. Can’t wait until I return tomorrow to see what has been achieved.

On my way out of the carpark I meet one of the Crowhurst Lane Neighbours walking his dog. He wants to know all about the project – there is so much interest in how the barn will be transformed into a community hub for this remote neighbourhood.


The author: Anni Steere Rhodes is Founder of Head2Head Sensory Theatre. Find out more about Anni and her charity on our About Us page.

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