Fundraising auction aims to boost river gardens tea room project

An artists drawing of the proposed new tea rooms building for Belper River Gardens, which could cost around �520,000 to build.
An artists drawing of the proposed new tea rooms building for Belper River Gardens, which could cost around �520,000 to build.

The Friends of Belper River Gardens are hosting an auction night this weekend, which has drawn support from all quarters of the community.

The event, on Friday, November 3, is part of the ongoing fundraising campaign towards the ambitious plans for a new tea rooms in the historic town centre park.

The auction has been organised by Friends member Dorothy Griffin, 70, who said: “So many local organisations and people have been more than generous in giving us some amazing items and experiences, so that we can push on with the fundraising. Whoever you speak to, everyone wants the tea rooms to happen.

“We’re just keeping our fingers crossed now that people will turn out to support us, and put in some bids on the night.”

Among the 40 lots on offer are an evening out at the Ritz Cinema and Lion Hotel, autographed photographs from the stars of BBC’s Poldark, days out at Crich Tramway Village, the Heights of Abraham and the Houses of Parliament.

There is also a gallon of locally-brewed beer, an hour’s-worth of ironing, a signed Belper Town FC shirt and plenty more besides.

The auction, being held at the Strutts Centre, will be compered by Charles Hanson, of Hanson’s Auctioneers, better known as one of the resident experts on Bargain Hunt.

Dorothy said: “It’s been quite a lot of work bringing it all together, mostly going around and getting the word out, but businesses in and around Belper have been so supportive along the way.

“We’ve spoken to around 60, and of those who couldn’t donate items for auction, many have made a contribution to the fundraising anyway.”

Plans for the tea rooms are still some distance from becoming a reality, with the campaign having raised around half of the estimated £520,000 costs since they started pushing the idea five years ago.

But Dorothy is convinced they will make it, and the result will be truly transformative for the town.

She said: “I think it would be a really, really great asset for the River Gardens. Something needs to be done with the site and it would make it a far more sociable place.

“It would also help to bring it back to Strutt’s original vision of the gardens as a place for people of the town to meet and enjoy themselves.”

If the Friends’ record of success is anything to go by, it will not be too long before change begins to happen.

Dorothy said: “I’ve been involved with the group since it began in about 2006, and we’ve never stood still.

“We helped find money to revamp the play area, we have regular working parties to help maintain the planting, and we recently completed a project to refurbish the space around the bandstand too.”

Friends’ members and the Belper Tea Rooms community interest company—of which Dorothy’s husband Trevor is a director—are currently in discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund about a major project which could unlock significant public funding for the tea rooms.

They also hope to submit their final application for planning permission this month. If approved, that could also help to secure more grant funding.

Dorothy said: “We are getting there, and working very hard. It wouldn’t be fair to single anyone out, but thank you to everyone who has supported us so far. We just hope the auction is a success now, and everyone comes to enjoy it.”

The Strutts Centre will be open from 6.30pm on Friday for viewing lots before the auction begins 7.30pm and will close around 9.30pm. Entry is £3 per person.

People can also support the tearooms by buying a virtual brick. For details, see www.belpertearooms.co.uk/news.