First Museum of Surfing gets go ahead in North Devon
Work can officially begin to create the UK’s first surfing museum following confirmation that a £250,000 funding package and building has been secured. The Museum of British Surfing, the national registered charity, will be based in Braunton, North Devon and will open by next summer.
The museum has a vast collection of surfboards and memorabilia tracing more than two centuries of the nation’s involvement with this ancient water sport. Founder and director Peter Robinson has spent more than a decade researching the UK’s surfing history and putting together the collection, which includes almost 200 surfboards. British surfers have also donated many key items, keen that our surfing heritage is preserved. The building includes a skate bowl and the surf museum will be sharing part of the site with the local youth service, and will collaborate with them on projects for young people in the community with the help of museum volunteers.
Building work to convert the space at The Yard in the village centre will be carried out over the next 10 months, with a scheduled opening date of May 28, 2011, and the lease is currently being finalised. “We want to change people’s perception of what a museum is, with fresh and vibrant exhibitions each year, touring shows and working with schools. There will also be a community space where we’ll have acoustic music, film, club meetings and special events,” said Pete. “We have waited a long time for this to come together and the trustees of the charity and I are thrilled.”
For the last seven years the collection has been on a successful tour of museums around the British coast. Pete said: “The concept of having a new exhibition each year at our space in Braunton that then goes off and tours the country means we can always offer something fresh and exciting, as well as delivering our environmental and educational aims.”
The main funding for the surfing museum has come via the Leader 4 programme, which supports projects in Torridge and North Devon with the aim of improving the economy, environment and quality of life in rural areas. The Leader 4 Local Action Group has offered its full backing, and says it is well aware of the economic benefits to the area.
Chairman, Viv Gale said: “We’re enthusiastic in our support for the Museum of British Surfing being established in North Devon. Past evidence from the Leader programme showed the great economic and social benefit surfing brings to northern Devon. We see the museum as an innovative extension of this benefit and look forward to it becoming a significant tourist attraction.”
Cornwall‐based Perfect Moment worked closely with the museum’s team by producing an economic feasibility study, providing advice on funding and support on business planning for the venture. Kevin Brownridge, a director at the business development company said: “This is a fantastic project for us to be involved with and one we are very proud to support. Working on contracts that have great benefits for local communities is incredibly important to Perfect Moment.” Aside from providing a unique tourist attraction, the trustees at the museum are working closely with Devon Youth Service.
The site, known as The Yard, houses a vibrant youth centre and the museum plans to improve facilities and offer new opportunities for young people. Pete said: “What an amazing opportunity to have a cool surf museum with loads of fun events, a skate bowl and youth centre all on the same site.”
Dave Rafferty is a principal youth officer with Devon Youth Service and said he was aware that there were concerns the youth centre would close, but the exact opposite is true: “This joint use with the proposed surfing museum could provide the stability and sustainability needed to ensure that effective youth services continue to be delivered within the community of Braunton.”
The surfing museum will be using the last surviving railway building in Braunton as an exhibition space, located on the village’s main car park off Caen Street.
The plan is to create a carbon neutral building that will reflect the charity’s core aims to encourage the preservation of the natural environment – especially the coast and sea. Pete said the location was hugely important: “Surfing brings more than £52 million a year into North Devon’s economy. The area is the surf gateway to the South West and Braunton acts as a hub for the industry and is itself the gateway to the main surfing beaches.”