2019 turned out to be a frustrating year, but in the end it was one in which we made a lot of meaningful progress 'under the radar'.
To recap, in 2018 our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the money to buy and renovate Nicholson's house was turned down, albeit accompanied by encouraging feedback.
The HLF then closed applications for several months while they went through a restructuring process. When they re-launched, around this time last year, it was with different priorities and a different application process. We submitted a formal Expression of Interest as a precursor to a second formal application last summer, but to our dismay this was turned down. We were however reassured that the door was not closed and we could try again.
Since that disappointment we have been working to rebuild our case. We have had three priorities - 1, to broaden and strengthen support in our home ground, Cumbria; 2, to develop relationships which will enable the house to make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of the local community; and 3, to research sources of funding which could augment any grant from the Lottery.
Each of these has gone very well and we believe that this groundwork will pay off when we make a second application to the Lottery.
At the same time, having taken advice from Cumbria CVS (Council for Voluntary Service), the Norman Nicholson Society's committee made the decision to set up a Community Interest Company to progress the project and operate the house if and when we are successful. We successfully obtained funding from Copeland Council which paid for business advice and assistance drawing up the relevant documentation, and the new company is due to be formally established within the next few weeks.
In the last few months we have expanded the Society's usual programme of events by holding a two-day Norman Nicholson Festival last June, an Open Day at 14 St George's Terrace in November, and an afternoon of poetry readings inside No 14 on the anniversary of Nicholson's birth a couple of weeks ago. All went very well and demonstrated an appetite for Nicholson's work and an interest in his environment.
We intend to submit our second application to the Lottery (now renamed the National Lottery Heritage Fund) later this year, and we are grateful to the many organisations and individuals who continue to support us.
I would also like to thank the Rev Clive Shaw, who has decided to step down as a patron of the NN House project, having retired from his post as vicar of St George's, Millom. We are grateful to Clive, not just for backing the project, but for the many ways he has helped and supported the Society during his time in Millom.
Charlie Lambert, chair of the Norman Nicholson Society