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Moving Forward: Plans for The Guildford Institute

06th June 2024

In the midst of challenging times for our charity, we have had to think tactically and creatively about how we make the most of the space in our building. With limited funding and the demand for our services continuing to rise, we recognise that we need to find new ways to generate income and support our community.

For many years, the ground floor of our building was let to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), providing an essential income stream for our charity. Following the departure of RBS in March 2022, we worked hard to secure a new tenant by overseeing works to make the space lettable and ready to market. By March 2023, heads of terms were agreed with a dental practice, with the contract due to be signed in July 2023. However, by November 2023, the dental practice had still not signed as agreed and after ten months of negotiations, they pulled out of the agreement. While this has been an undeniable and costly setback, it has encouraged us to take a new approach that we believe will not only secure crucial revenue but also enable us to grow as an organisation.

The Guildford Institute Building

Khaled Abdullah and Lisa Taylor

The first decision we have made is to find a new tenant for the second floor of our building to provide us with a much-needed source of revenue. This space has housed our counsellor and therapist team for many years, however, it is in desperate need of refurbishment and we are keen to provide them with improved facilities elsewhere in the building.  After careful consideration and negotiation, we are delighted to have found a suitable tenant who shares our values and mission as an organisation, and who loves our building!  M:tech Education Services was launched in 2008 and provides an extracurricular music technology and creative composition course for children. Khaled Abdullah, Company Director, said ‘I was born and educated in Guildford, and I am passionate about M:tech being established in the town as part of something bigger. M:tech’s values feel aligned with those of The Guildford Institute’.

Lisa Taylor, Institute Manager said ‘We are very excited about the prospect of working with M:tech and are exploring ways we can collaborate together in the future’.

Visual for the Ground Floor Conversion

With the second floor occupancy now agreed (remedial works are currently in progress) we have turned our attention back to the ground floor of our building. We saw an opportunity to transform this space into a community and wellbeing centre; an extension of our current offer in the rest of the building where people come together to socialise, learn, and support one another. By working with local businesses and community groups, we aim to create a space that is welcoming and inclusive, offering a wide range of services and activities for people of all ages. This will include purpose-built, sound-proofed rooms for many of our counsellors and therapists, and a new meeting space for local groups and charities.

Another exciting change is to make better use of our treasured but underused historic Library, for part of the week it will now be used as a characterful and functional meeting room helping us to generate much-needed revenue. However it will remain a welcoming library on Thursday and Saturday, open for everyone to browse, borrow and research. Our community café, V Café is now also open every weekday, continuing the 40-year tradition of serving vegetarian and vegan meals in our Assembly Room.

The Guildford Institute’s historic Library

V Café in the Institute’s Assembly Room

By taking a strategic approach to how we use the space in our building, we are able to not only generate additional income, but also strengthen our connection to the community and expand our impact. We have seen an increase in the number of people coming through our doors, and have received positive feedback from both our students and visitors.

In difficult times, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to move forward. But by thinking creatively about how we use our resources, and by developing and expanding our programme, we are weathering the storm and will emerge stronger than ever. We are proud of our progress and excited about the future possibilities that lie ahead for the Guildford Institute and the community we serve.

Please consider donating to, and supporting, our Spacehive project, which is specifically fundraising to provide accessible toilets in the GI Community & Wellbeing Centre.