Town Liaison Forum visits Keswick’s former Pencil Factory

A tour of the refurbishment work on Keswick’s former Pencil Factory has been held for members of the Town Liaison Forum.

Keswick Town Councillors along with representatives from Crosthwaite Church and Keswick Tourism Association were given a tour of the facilities by Keswick Ministries, which owns the building.

They viewed the ground floor, which was transformed in time for this summer’s Convention, and they also viewed the first and second floors, still to be completed, before going up to the roof to see the stunning rooftop views of Keswick.

Coun Paul Titley, of Keswick Town Council, said: “What you have done is phenomenal. It looks lovely now.”

“The opportunity is out there for this facility to compete in the business of hosting trade shows given the hotel offer in Keswick is unique and the scenery is fantastic.”

He said there is “enormous opportunity” for adventure activities with a dry base in Keswick in the winter months.

David Sawday, Chief Operating Officer at Keswick Ministries, said a huge amount of work has been completed at the Pencil Factory this past year, including the “fantastically restored front fascia”, installation of new windows at the front of the building, raising the ground floor level and building new rooms. Toilets have also been installed.

There is already interest in using the facilities including charity triathlons, a climate meeting organised by Sustainable Keswick and the launch of Joss Naylor’s new book, organised through Bookends.

The town councillors encouraged Keswick Ministries to think big about an official opening and to promote the unique facilities.

Forum members heard that the remainder of the work is set to start in the Autumn. This includes re-rendering and replacing the windows at the rear of the building, adding staircases, a lift and revamping the first and second floors.

The multi-million pound revamp of the historic art deco building means the facility can be used during the annual Convention and as a hired facility throughout the year.

This year is the first time the Convention has taken place on the combined Pencil Factory and Rawnsley site.

Simon Overend, Head of Operations at Keswick Ministries, said: “In a very challenging year with all the Covid unknows it was quite an achievement to be able to hold the event. Strict Covid precautions meant there were no outbreaks and just one known case which led to a small number of people self-isolating.”

Around 6,000 people attended the three-week Convention this year, which is lower than the usual 12,000 to 15,000 people.

Speaking about the convention being on one site with Covid measures in place, Coun Duncan Miller, of Keswick Town Council, said: “You have handled it very well. Well done!”

The forum heard that few issues were raised by people from the town. Cumbria Highways advised that they had received no complaints about the pedestrian crossing; many people had appreciated it. Current plans would be to have a similar crossing at Keswick Convention 2022 unless a suitable permanent one supersedes the need.

Keswick Ministries is planning for next year’s event (16th July – 5th August). The main venue will be a marquee with the Packing Hall used for the mission exhibition, bookshop, café and as an overflow. Good use will be made of the whole of the Pencil Factory building.

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