Good news…in the unlikeliest places

A story that really grabbed my interest in The Guardian yesterday was about the purchase for £1 of Perrott’s Folly, the eighteenth century hunting lodge/folly (views differ regarding its real purpose) which towers almost 100 feet above Ladywood and is said to be an inspiration for Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Tolkien lived near-by as a child.

Initially, my heart sank. Could it really be good news that this historic building had been snapped up for a quid?

Well, the answer is an emphatic yes. It has been purchased by Reach: The People Charity, part of the Trident housing group.

Reach has launched a £1m fundraising programme to refurbish the architectural gem and open it permanently to the public.

But there is more to this than just a heritage story.  Reach’s Ben Bradley wants the tower to become a centre for the local community and a big part of Reach’s work to support some of the poorest, most vulnerable and most excluded individuals.

“If all we ended up with here is four-wheel-drives pulling up for a quick look and then driving away again 10 minutes later, as far as I’m concerned we’d have failed,” he says.

The poorest communities, Bradley says, have all too often seen agencies parachute in with new “projects”, only to disappear as soon as the money has been spent and the project has ended. Reach wants the mysterious Perrott’s Folly to have pride of place in the community it has looked out over for three centuries — a place for the local community. More here.

I have only been inside the folly on one occasion — in 2009, to see Sofia Hultén’s art installation, DRAWN ONWARD, organised by the Ikon gallery.

It is a genuinely mysterious and atmospheric place.

Reach should be congratulated for this adventurous step. Good luck to them and their plans for putting Perrott’s Folly back at the heart of one of the poorest communities in Birmingham.

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