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Beginning in January 2019 The Pevensey Bay Journal is to publish, The Mint House Blog, an account of the restoration of the historic Mint House in Pevensey.

Purchased by entrepreneur Jason Rolf in July 2018, his ambition is to develop the site into a series of new business units which will faithfully see the building brought back the economic life of the village.

The last time the building saw economic activity was over 15 years ago as an antiques gallery.

Evidence shows that the historic building has been part of the economic life of the village since at least the nineteen forties. How many people knew that Mint House was once a Tea Room? Deborah Sadki, who works with the Journal as an ad hoc researcher discovered this account in Victory Harvest: Diary of a Canadian in the Women’s Land Army, 1940-1944, about a proposed visit to the Tea Room.

Part of the vision of Jason Rolf is to see the historic Mint House put on to the creative industries map in the South East of England.

Talking to the Pevensey Bay Journal in August 2018, he said “I’d spotted The Old Mint House earlier in the year when it came to auction previously but I was busy with another project so when it came up again I decided to investigate further.

“I look at a lot of prospective commercial properties and they have to make long-term financial sense. At the Old Mint House there were clearly a lot of issues that would need attention and it was going to be difficult to evaluate quickly especially with the auction only a few weeks away.

“On top of that the years it had remained vacant meant it was being slowly engulfed by vegetation, some of which had made its way inside the property.

“After downloading the full legal pack and reading through every document I spent evenings and weekends contacting anyone who might offer up some helpful advice and information. Much like the viewing, this brought good and bad news but with just one day till the auction I had worked out it was just about viable to take on and 24 hours later I was the new owner”.

In the exclusive Mint House Blog for the Pevensey Bay Journal, Jason gives a monthly account of his work  and ambition to see the old Mint House restored and brought back to economic life in the village.

With so little economic activity in Pevensey, the plan has the potential to be transformative to the fortunes of the village, but is there enough about the village to attract any new small businesses?

There is hardly any economic infrastructure at all in the locality. Pevensey trades off one thing only, the magic of the castle and the place of the castle in the story of England. But what a place in the story of England..

One possibility is that the restoration of the building could attract small start up businesses in the fields of the creative and digital industries in Sussex.

Having said that, again, there is no business infrastructure for such enterprises to make a connection with other such businesses. Pevensey is not Brighton.

Can the uniqueness of Pevensey from a small buiness start up point of view become a plus point over time?

This question is likely to become increasingly the focus of attention as the Mint House project develops.

There is also a possible plan to open a small number of business units at the back of the building.

Jason has already indicated to the Journal, the possibility that these small business units, sited at the back of the old Mint House, could be leased as early as Easter 2019.

He has suggested that the money required for the leases would not be ‘astronomical’.

Pevensey is a unique historic location. The village has some unique attractions as a business location for particular kinds of start up business.

Pevensey, as a village, has a panel on the Bayeux Tapestry dedicated to the story of the 1066 landing.

The panel is seen locally as a ‘unique nearly 1,000 year old billboard promotion for the village”

The tapestry is now part of the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. The Bayeux Tapestry returns to the country after nearly 1,000 years in three years time.

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth nearly 70 metres (230 ft) long and 50 centimetres (20 in) tall,which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England

Where the Bayeux Tapestry will be sited for the year as an extraordinary exhibit, on loan from France, is still being discussed in Government circles.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed next steps for return of Bayeux Tapestry to the UK on 5 July 2018.

In a press release by the Government published on that day, he said, “The Bayeux Tapestry is a step closer to returning to the UK for the first time in almost a thousand years after the Government signed a landmark agreement today”.

The press release titled Bayeux Tapestry set to be on display in the UK in 2022 – the first time since its creation more than 900 years ago saw the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the UK Culture Secretary and French Minister of Culture in Paris

The Agreement includes commitment to Tapestry’s English translation and joint Anglo-French initiative to ‘enrich and broaden international and public understanding’ of tapestry through digital technology”

Following his attendance at the Digital Colloque in Paris, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Matt Hancock signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with French Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen. The agreement is a key milestone in securing the Tapestry’s loan in 2022.

Both countries have agreed to collaborate to broaden international and public understanding of the Tapestry and work towards its full English translation.

The deal, the press release explains, “sets out a period of cross-Channel cooperation between universities and research institutes, who will consider how to use digital technology to make the Tapestry more accessible to future generations. They will also prepare for its conservation and safe transportation to the UK”.

At the local level, work is progressing towards a bid to the Department of Culture, Media to see the Tapestry brought to Battle for the year.

Representatives from English Heritage, Battle Abbey School and Battle Town Council joined Huw Merriman MP and visitor attraction and design industry experts on 25 September 2018 to discuss the next stages in the bid for Battle to become the temporary UK home for the Bayeux Tapestry.

The industry experts, who have previously worked on sporting and cultural projects, including the London Olympics, offered their insight and design proposals.

A significant sum will support the year that the Bayeux Tapestry is loaned to this country.

Resources will be offered to schools, college and the heritage industry to promote the year.

The possibility that a small start up digital business may position themselves at the old Mint House in Pevensey to tell the story of the the Norman Landing is an exciting local proposition, and already being mooted, amongst a number of ideas.

Such a venture might attract a lottery grant.

A web platform utilised as a teaching tool and resource for schools across the country, starting with the story of the arrival of the Normans, or as the Bayeux Tapestry describes ‘Ad Pevenesae’ could act as gateway to the digital project

Perhaps no better place could be located for such a venture than the old Mint House in Pevensey.

A growing collection of small business start up units in the building, beginning to appear the next two-five years, seems to be something that may now happen.

There is the possibility of a small ‘cluster effect’, if any of these businesses are linked in any way either by social or economic purpose.

These are very early days with the purchase of the Mint House by Jason Rolf, too early for any tangible plans, but possibilities are beginning to emerge.

There is only a very fragile economic base to Pevensey, represented by the service sector, one public house, one tea room and one combined restaurant, public bar and hotel.

The rest is history, with the magical castle, churches and the small museum and court house. Nonetheless, the location is unique and fascinating.

Any business based at the Mint House would have to see an advantage to the location. Such small businesses would have to identify ‘added value’.

These kinds of small business are likely to see themselves as operating in a specific fields, perhaps history, but maybe also in the fields of visitor destination and the promotion of rural locations in the light of their isolated nature.

A local office unit, for example for an organisation of the calibre of Sustrans, might be a natural fit.

Sustrans is the UK sustainable transport charity. Their flagship project is the National Cycle Network, which has created over 14,000 miles of signed cycle routes throughout the UK,

What is interesting about the Mint House project is the vision and the challenge.

Perhaps Action in Rural Sussex have already noticed what is happening with the Mint House purchase.

AirS is an independent charity that exists for all people living in rural areas of Sussex but especially those who are at risk of isolation and/or disadvantage, and for whom rural life brings an additional challenge and cost to their daily lives.

Established in 1931, they are staffed by a highly experienced and dedicated team who are committed to helping people overcome the challenges caused by their rural location. Their vision is for a thriving, economically active rural Sussex full of choice and opportunities for everyone, regardless of their circumstances.

In 2019, Action in Rural Sussex  is putting on a series of networking events in Pevensey Bay.

Their base is in Lewes, so there is no need for an office base in isolated Pevensey. Having said that, the basis on which they work with local councils is extensive, including with Wealden Council. Their networking events in the locality are the result of an injection of new money into the organisation.

They may not need a satellite office, but an approach for their advice and services might produce some interesting connection with proposed local start up businesses.

Their prepardness to promote the Mint House as a possible office location for some rural social purpose in Sussex is directly in line with their remit. Such promotion would be right across rural Sussex..

One flagship business basing their office administration function in the historic building, might represent a game changing moment. One such business might attract other such businesses.

Of course this is much too early a stage to make any such assessment of such possibilities.

Having said that, a ‘scoping exercise’ of such possible activities and the promotion of these possibilities may begin to take place in 2019.

The acid test for such ‘niche’ ventures would be their commercial viability.

In addition, to attract Government grants or support, another acid test that would have to be passed is their ‘demonstrable and sustainable value’ to the local community and visitors to the historic location.

What remains to be seen also is whether Engilsh Heritage custodians of Pevensey Castle, will see any opportunity to extend their activities. Most certainly the charity is likely to benefit in financial terms in the lead up to the arrival of the Bayeux Tapestry in the coming three years..

In the field of creativity, one test has already been passed by Jason Rolf, the new owner of the Mint House.

He already owns a site in Royal Tunbridge Wells called the Yard.

The Yard is home to the office administration of the award-winning Strangeface Theatre Company. The company has toured original visual theatre to venues regionally, nationally and internationally since 2001.

Accessibility is at the heart of their work – they take our performances for all to all spaces and explore complex ideas in engaging forms.

Artistic Director Russell Dean is one of the countries leading makers providing masks and puppets for the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Vamos, Trestle, Geese, Red Ladder, Ben and Holly Live and Billy Elliot amongst many others.

In early December a discussion took place between the Journal and Jsaon Rolf. about the early stages of work on the building..

So far the gutters have been cleared and various essential tasks have been undertaken to support the ambitious project.

Various experts have also been involved offering advice, and Wealden Council is already directly linked with advice to the project.

We are looking at a plan for a unique project and a unique set of challenges for the new owner.

How will this project shape up for the village?

The contribution that the Pevensey Bay Journal is to make over the next two years with the Mint House project, is to publish the Mint House Blog on a monthly basis.

The first blog post, written by Jason Rolf in early December, simply summaries the first stage with essential work on guttering.

At the end of January 2019, Jason promises a full update to the community in the pages of the Pevensey Bay Journal.

The unfolding story is to be told by the Pevensey Bay Journal in the form of a set of posts headed by a cartoon form that mimics the style of the Bayeux Tapestry.

The ‘Historic Tale Construction Kit – Bayeux’ was developed by two German students, they originally wrote the Historic Tale Construction Kit, with Flash.

Sadly, their work is not available anymore, only remembered. The new application to be utilised by the Journal is a tribute, and an attempt to revive the old medieval meme, with code and availability that will not get lost.

The kit has has been developed by Leonard Allain-Launay, a Gameplay programmer, and is freely available online.

Time will tell what will happen with the the Mint House project over the next 2-5 years.

Perhaps the story will become a footnote of failed ambition, perhaps the project will see frustration, impossibility and lack of interest from possible business start-ups, but clearly something will start to happen at the Min House now the purchase has been made.

The Mint House blog will tell that story.

This will be an interesting story, with perhaps twists and turns at the end of each chapter.

Without question though, the project is being seen as having the possibility of transforming not just the economic fortunes of the village of Pevensey but also becoming a social imprint that could have lasting value to the historic village.