An innovative Portsmouth social enterprise that works with former members of the Armed Forces is launching an exciting new project in Fort Cumberland and recruiting ex-Service personnel to get involved. Sarah Cheverton spoke to the Company of Makers to find out more.
Portsmouth’s Company of Makers are working to bring an unused casemate (pictured above) in Fort Cumberland back into use. Once complete, the casemate will be used as a venue to run further workshops for ex-Service personnel who are struggling on civvy street.
‘It doesn’t matter how long ago they left the Armed Forces,’ co-founder Steve Bomford told S&C. ‘Anyone who has served is welcome to come and take part, but places are limited, so we’d recommend people register their interest now.’
‘A liking for Grand Designs and problem-solving skills will also come in handy,’ Rachel Olivia Owen, co-founder added.
Anyone who is interested is asked to register their interest online and successful applicants will work with the Company of Makers design team to learn how to restore an historic scheduled monument. Recruits will be given an exclusive tour of the site, which is usually closed to the public, and opportunities to measure up and take photographs to inform their work. Finally, the team will develop a design proposal to bring the Casemate back into use for future generations of veterans.
‘There’s a special quality to be working with members of the Armed Forces in Fort Cumberland, where so many others have served over hundreds of years,’ said Rachel, ‘Particularly when the work we do together will allow even more veterans to visit, use and benefit from the site.’
The first fort on the site was built by the Duke of Cumberland between 1747-1785 and remained in military ownership for most of the twentieth century. The fort has served as a base for the Royal Marine Artillery howitzer and anti aircraft brigade, and later for the Royal Marine Mobile Naval Base Defence Organisation, as an experimental and training centre. On August 26, 1940, it was hit by a German air raid that killed eight Royal Marines, and continued to be used by the Royal Marines into the 1970s.
In 1964 the fort was scheduled as an ancient monument and taken into the guardianship of English Heritage in 1975, now Historic England. The Fort is now the home of Historic England’s archaeological research teams and the Nautical Archaeology Society.
‘The workshops we’ve delivered over the past few years help with the adjustment to civvy street, teach new skills, build confidence and assist former Service personnel to re-enter work after leaving the military,’ said Steve.
‘Our participants have gone on to find work, start a new business or commence further training.’
A former participant in the Company of Makers workshops said, ‘I would recommend this to anyone – it was fantastic and a great insight into history and understanding architecture and design, and working with others again -something I haven’t done for some time.’
If you are a former member of the Armed Forces and want to get involved, register your interest here. If you’d like further information, contact the Company of Makers via their website or at their studio at the Hotwalls. Places are very limited, so don’t delay!