A project for people, #madeinsandwell: North Smethwick Development Trust

This week #madeinsandwell Monday is celebrating North Smethwick Development Trust and its transformation of a dilapidated 1960s building into a much-loved community hub.

Brasshouse, NDSTNSDT is a unique organisation serving the community of North Smethwick in our borough of Sandwell. Run as a charity for 26 years, it was formed as part of a tenants’ and residents’ association to renovate properties.

CEO Jennifer Harrison told us that NSDT has always been rooted into community action.

“We are a community-led organisation in the area providing services to all sections of the diverse community, thereby playing a valuable role in community cohesion,” Jennifer said. “We remain passionate to our founding ideals of facilitating the residents of North Smethwick to actively participate in, and contribute to, the process of improving the quality of life in the area”.

One way in which NSDT has demonstrated its founding ideals is through the Brasshouse on Brasshouse Lane, once a run-down 1960s building.

In 2013 NSDT signed a community asset transfer agreement with Sandwell Council to take over the Brasshouse, having conducted research into local people’s priorities, needs and aspirations for the building.

The development project cost £830,000 – found through grant funding, an interest-free loan, materials provided in kind, and pro bono support from local businesses.

The new Brasshouse opened in 2014, offering a greater range of services and activities for the community – ranging from a holiday club for children through to professional theatre productions.

Further investment enabled NSDT to establish a successful catering and venue hire operation. This has helped secure NSDT’s financial independence, as well as offering young people a volunteering route into the catering and hospitality industry.

Brasshouse cafe, NDSTThe Brasshouse café, which is open every day from 9am to 2pm, serves tasty, affordable food made from locally sourced ingredients. Profits are reinvested in work carried out for the local community.

Jennifer said the Brasshouse is particularly proud of its Eat Out Eat Well silver award, which gives confidence to customers that they can choose healthy options.

“This spurs us on to make more healthy changes and achieve the Gold award,” she said.

The NSDT team has many more reasons to be proud of the Brasshouse. It has a Disability Confident Level 1 award from the Department of Work and Pensions, for example, demonstrating its commitment to encouraging people with disabilities to come and work for the organisation. It also facilitates an Early Help partnership with Sandwell Council and the voluntary & community sector (VCS), and offers much for families with children, including an out-of-school club, community lunches, a community garden and a parenting programme.

You can find out more at www.nsdt.org.uk.

#madeinsandwell Monday is a celebration of the talent and diversity of organisations within our borough. If you’re interested in being considered for a #madeinsandwell Monday profile and having information about your organisation shared on Think Sandwell and through our social media networks, read this.