Networking, legal framework & planning application
In Spring 2005 we held our first Open Day, opening up the redundant timber barn for an exhibition of the plans (attended by the architect Richard Swann for any explanations needed), guided tours, tea and cakes, activities for children and a treasure hunt. We were pleasantly surprised to welcome nearly 100 visitors and were kept busy pressing the flesh and answering questions.
Work continued behind the scenes on the planning application, while time was spent at meetings working through countless documents
from the Mems. & Arts. and necessary documentation for setting up the company, to Leases, to publicity ideas, to Community Rules and Regulations. We set up the office, the B&B and began offering courses, as we needed to prove that we were indeed intending to run an education centre as well as being a cohousing community. Exhibition boards were created which we used at the Shaftesbury and Gillingham Agricultural show and the Gillingham Festival to spread the word of our intentions. We attended the local East Stour hog roast (to network and find out who were the true 100% vegetarians!) and at Christmas produced a tree hung with home-made recycled decorations for a competition at East Stour parish church.
Both Caroline and Alan became trustees of the Three Rivers Partnership – the local Gillingham community partnership, and to this day Caroline is still involved, having contributed over the years with the setting up and building of the new Leisure Centre.
All of this time we were making contact with local and national media. Luckily a local councillor, Joel Lacey, was very supportive of our ideas and his wife, Hester worked at the Guardian and was able to write a great piece in the Family section about us. This produced a huge mailbag and many course participants for our Creating Cohousing courses. Over time we had many really supportive pieces in the local Blackmore Vale Magazine, The Wessex Gazette, and then came the Observer, Times, Saga Magazine and Dorset Life.