Reviving Bridport's heritage: Dorset Business Mentors help to turn around LSi

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: April 14, 2024 | Updated: 14th April 2024

A historic building in Bridport has been taken from the brink of demolition to a buzzing hub thanks to the combined efforts of two organisations.

The Literary and Scientific Institute on East Street had lapsed into a state of dilapidation when the Bridport Area Development Trust took the building over from Dorset County Council.

The organisation then set about restoring and finding a new purpose for the former town library, tapping into funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Architectural Heritage Fund, and English Heritage.

The project faced a number of setbacks throughout the years, including the collapse of the main contractor, but BADT pivoted, re-tendered, and completed the restoration in 2018.

The revitalised building housed a vibrant mix of amenities—a ground-floor café, upper-floor commercial spaces, meeting rooms, a work hub with hot desks, and a covered courtyard for various activities.

Unfortunately, the challenges of the initial restoration were only the beginning, with the cafe proving unsustainable and then closing in 2019, and then the pandemic further complicating matters.

However, with additional funding – and support from Dorset Business Mentors – BADT has managed to navigate further turbulence.

BADT were recommended Dorset Business Mentors by Dorset Council to help facilitate an independent assessment of two competing feasibility studies in the BADT’s search for new leaseholders.

Collaboration with their mentor, Andrew Cook, proved fruitful, with his involvement eventually extending to joining BADT as a trustee, indicative of their shared dedication to the project’s success.

Andrew helped introduce a thorough and transparent decision-making process, which in turn gave BADT confidence in their commercial planning.

Speaking to Dorset Biz News, Andrew said: “I’m really proud of the work of BADT, so much so that it convinced me to become a trustee.”

“Originally I started out as a Dorset Business Mentor to help with an independent assessment of two competing feasibility studies.

“As I got more and more involved in the project I found myself admiring the persistence and sheer hard work of the trustees – who are all volunteers – especially in the face of some very difficult circumstances.

“Often when people think of charities they picture a Managing Director and the staff, but that’s not the case here.

“This is a small charity with no staff, so the trustees are the people who had to roll up their sleeves and get involved with the operational tasks, either taking on the respoinsbility themselves or finding and co-opting specialists with the correct expertise.

“It’s bordering on incredible.”

Today, the building is a bustling hub of activity, featuring everything from hot desks to meeting rooms and podcast, with a significant number of bookings.

Andrew concluded: “It’s fantastic that the people of Bridport can actually use the building to good effect now.

“It’s been a magnificent effort by the trustees, both past and present.”

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