Norwich creative collective's warmbank directory
An online directory has been launched to signpost people most in need of warmth this winter to their nearest warm space. ‘Warm banks’ are public spaces, such as libraries, churches, community centres and art galleries where people can access free of charge to keep warm over the autumn and winter.
The initiative is a response to the cost of living crisis, driven by rising energy prices alongside soaring costs of food which is predicted to intensify as winter approaches. The energy price cap will rise to £3,549 from October 1 - an increase of more than 80%. The average yearly bill for households on a default tariff will rise by £1,578, meaning thousands of people will not be able to afford to heat their homes.
Organiser Jason Baldry, founder of Flint Collective & Head of Creative and IT at STN, says churches can be instrumental in helping people keep warm this winter. Jason said, “Our church has the potential to offer a warm space, so we went looking for an online directory to investigate registering our location as a ‘warm bank’, but couldn’t find one. I decided to build a simple website where people can list their venue alongside any additional features they can offer, such as use of wifi, food provision or recharging electronic devices.”
The vision for the website warmspaces.org is to signpost people to their nearest warm bank. Councils across the UK have pledged to use public buildings to keep people warm this winter, but Jason believes a co-ordinated approach is important. “Covid taught us the importance of collective action and communities working together. A central listing of warm spaces could be a lifeline for people who don’t know where to turn to for help. It will allow friends and relatives to signpost vulnerable people to a place of welcome.”
Jason is urging organisations to list their venues on the warmspaces.org directory. “We’re not asking people to do anything new. If a venue, such as a church or community centre or library is open already, we’re simply asking them to add their details to the website.”
STN’s own venue Mitre Coffee on Earlham Road in Norwich is exploring how it could offer a warm space. Jason said, “The venue is open and heated anyway, and already offers a ‘pay it forward’ scheme for hot drinks through the generosity of our paying customers who can spare a little extra cash.”
Diocesan Secretary Tim Sweeting said, "We have over 600 churches across the Diocese of Norwich and each one aims to provide a welcoming and supportive community space in every parish. Many already offer a ‘warm space’ and a place for refreshment and support on a regular basis, through lunch clubs, foodbanks, community fridges, debt advice centres and more, which can be essential services in some areas of the region."
"We will be working in partnership with public and voluntary sector colleagues to help churches who would like to provide a ‘warm space’ for others as the energy costs rise."
If you have a warmbank venue, you can list it here: https://warmspaces.org/register
Pictured above: Jason Baldry