Opening Doors – The first INTO the BARN Event!

Saturday 24th March 2018, 7.30 pm, Doors open 7.15 pm. Tickets £5 on the door

This Spring we are opening the doors of the 15th century Bishop’s Barn in Wells, Somerset, to an intimate evening with two very special women.

Helen Ottaway and Melanie Thompson have been working across multiple arts disciplines all their professional lives.  They would like to share an evening with you where you will find yourself immersed in their stories from two residencies located in two very different parts of the world.

Through film, sound installation, demonstration and specially prepared talks, Melanie and Helen will take you through the fascinating process of creating original site-specific work in response to Sri Lanka and Denmark.

Helen Ottaway – Six weeks, Hikkaduwa, sea sounds, drawing music on the beach and a magical musical box.  Helen was sponsored by Inside Out Dorset to take part in the Sura Medura  International Artists Residency in Sri Lanka.


Melanie Thompson – Two years, Aarhus, two solo performances in one night and a film about drowning. Melanie was invited to collaborate with Reflektion Teatre, Denmark and its director, Bjarne Sandborg.

melanie solo 2

Ten years ago Melanie and Helen created Palace Intrusions, a two year public art project, for Wells. They are now returning with the intention of creating a new work for the city and its community.

This event is part of the Into the BARN project 2018.

Bishop’s Barn, Silver Street, Wells, Somerset, BA5 1US 

Into the BARN: New ventures, festivals and events set for Wells Bishop’s Barn and Grounds in 2018

Wells Recreation Ground Trust announce a range of new festivals, community events and performances to take place at The Bishop’s Barn and Recreation Grounds throughout 2018

Photo Credit: Mark Alder

The trustees of Wells Recreation Ground Trust have just announced the winners of the Into the BARN scheme for 2018.

It is hoped that this new dynamic new scheme in Wells, Somerset will encourage and support lots of new community activity in the heart of the city. The scheme called Into the BARN offered 10 FREE opportunities for organisations, groups and individuals to use The Bishop’s Barn and also the Recreation Ground and Bandstand.

Winners have just been announced and subject to necessary TENS licences, successful upcoming events include:

  • A week-long professional theatre production of Macbeth by SouthBay Productions in October
  • A free family Mayday and Peace celebration featuring speeches and discussions, a peace exhibition, free children’s entertainment, stalls, live acoustic music, art displays and traditional skill demonstrations organised by the Wells Labour Party
  • A Party in the Park style event by Bekabar who have worked at Hauser and Wirth including live music and possible a ceilidh in August
  • The Craft Unit will transform the barn into a craft space for a week with work produced by artists with learning disabilities or who experience marginalisation showcasing work by groups such as Open Storytellers
  • Wells Theatre Festival launches in 2018 and will use The Bishop’s Barn as one of the core venues for this new festival in Wells.
  • Wells City Lions will host a three-day beer and cider festival featuring the very best regional produce with local music.
  • StoneArt 2018 will present a stone carving festival in the barn and grounds that aims to showcase this traditional craft. A small group of talented stone carvers across the UK will be invited to spend just three days turning a block of stone into a piece of sculptural artwork. The carvers will be given the same size and type of stone and a ‘theme’ that links to the local area and the history of Wells.
  • The Jones Collective will host a research and development period on a new theatre production Frank in the barn. This will consist of a group of 8 devising theatre-makers, actors, musicians and designers working together to complete development on the show ready for its world premiere and tour in 2019.
  • International artists Melanie Thompson and Helen Ottaway will host a week-long artists residency in the barn exploring the possibilities of a new site-specific community musical performance. The event will also include two short solo presentations of work, supported by film and music, that they have recently developed.

Into the BARN winners

As well as raising up to £2,600 for The Bishop’s Barn development fund the scheme will hopefully provide some important cultural and community opportunities in Wells and bring together local community makers.

Councillor John Parham, Chair of the Wells Recreation Ground Trust commented: “This is a great opportunity for Wells and one we hope will be embraced by the community and bring new life, ideas and events to rejuvenate a building already rich with a great history”.

The barn and grounds have a rich history of community endeavour and enterprising activity – in the 70s Blue School Student Gordon Poole began his international programming career in the barn brining SLADE, Status Quo, Supertramp and many other groups to the barn.

This programme of events also serves to raise awareness of the Barn and facilities and test out future events. Wells Recreation Ground Trust are currently in the process of applying to Heritage Lottery Fund for re-development and renovation of the barn and grounds and putting forward a business and funding plan demonstrating local partnerships and community commitment to the barn.

Wells Recreation Ground Trust would also welcome applications from community groups interested in running event as part of Wells Bandstand Festival in 2018. The charity who convened this programme, Superact, sadly went into liquidation last year so trustees are keen to hear of any music or community groups interested in continuing this venture.

August 2018 also marks the 130th anniversary of the celebration event thanking Bishop Lord Arthur Hervey for his gift – giving the Recreation Grounds and Bishop’s Barn to the people of Wells as a space for recreation and amusement. His intention was particularly to provide a community space for those families without access to gardens – trustees would be keen to hear from any groups interested in running an event to mark this anniversary and perhaps re-create some of the original event which included a giant tug of war, stalls and games.

Louise Lappin-Cook Project Development Manager for The Bishop’s Barn commented: “We have been thrilled with the range of proposals the community has put forward for the Barn and Grounds in 2018 which highlight just what an important space it is for people to come together”

Further information can be found by visiting by visiting the Facebook Page @thebishopsbarn or emailing

For future proposals or to contact Trustees regarding events please email

Two vacancies to work with Wells Recreation Ground Trust as part of a new HLF funded project

Thanks to our recent successful funding bid to Heritage Lottery Fund we have two freelance vacancies available to support the next phase of work on The Bishop’s Barn in Wells. Further information and Work Briefs are below.

The deadline for both opportunities is 9am Monday 11th December 2017.

We look forward to hearing from you!

WRGT Consultation Ad 11th Final.png

Click here to view the full Work Brief for this role

WRGT Gov Ad Mon 11 Final

Click here to view the full Work Brief for this role

Funding Success!

Wells Recreation Ground Trust wins National Lottery support for The Bishop’s Barn in Wells

The Wells Recreation Ground Trust has received £9,300 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, Visionary Resilience, in Wells. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project will complete the next phase of development work required prior to applying for funds to initiate a capital programme of works at The Bishop’s Barn in Wells.

130 general

As part of the project The Wells Recreation Ground Trust will hold two large public events. The first, a Scope and Design event, will be aimed at local organisations and individuals to explore potential uses for the barn and design considerations that may need to be in place to enhance the site as a whole. This event will be supported by Mendip District Council, Historic England and will involve interactive community planning. It is hoped that the event – which will take place in early January – will build on the vast expertise of organisations locally and assist in designing a building that truly responds to community need. The second event will be large fundraising conference which will draw on best practice from across the county – exploring donor development, crowd funding, sponsorship, shares, enterprise based models, working with trusts and foundations and developing collaborative funding bids. Both events will feature guest speakers and highlight best practice across the county. As well as supporting developing a sustainable infrastructure for the barn it is also hoped that these events will further develop some of the collaborative thinking that has evolved through the City’s recent City of Culture bid.

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The project will also involve community consultation with early years groups and teenage groups to see how the barn can help fill potential gaps in Wells.

A key focus of the project will be developing governance and management for the site – looking at a long-term management plan and developing the skills and expertise of trustees to manage an asset of this nature. As part of this trustees and the project team (which includes Somerset Buildings Preservation Trust) will visit several key barns and heritage projects across the South West and develop a network of support of critical friends to the project.

Funding will also support the development of a long-term funding plan for the barn – establishing relationships with other funders.

Cllr John Parham, Chair of the Recreation Ground Trust stated: “The Wells Recreation Ground Trust are delighted to have been awarded this significant funding from the National Lottery. This project represents an important next phase in the development of The Bishop’s Barn and a brilliant opportunity to work alongside a highly respected national funder. We have excellent partnerships in place for the capital phase of work and this funding will ensure we can develop the strongest possible plan for the barn and local community with a visionary but credible and realistic funding and development plan in place.”


Into the BARN: Opening Doors in the Community – A new scheme launches in Wells

What would your community group, theatre company, school, artists collective, charity or business do with free access to a fifteenth century barn, recreation grounds and bandstand?

The trustees of Wells Recreation Ground Trust are launching a dynamic new scheme in Wells, Somerset which they hope will help encourage and support lots of new community activity in the heart of the city. The scheme called Into the BARN will offer 10 FREE opportunities for organisations, groups and individuals to hire The Bishop’s Barn – and also utilise the Recreation Ground and Bandstand if desired.

Into the Barn

This opportunity is open to artists, community groups, schools, charities, individuals, businesses, collectives and social entrepreneurs for events taking place throughout 2018.

The scheme aims to not only provide some important cultural and community opportunities in Wells and bring together local community makers, but also to raise awareness of the Barn which is in the process of applying to Heritage Lottery Fund for re-development and renovation and develop its future partnerships.

The Bishop’s Barn and surrounding Recreation Grounds are located in the centre of Somerset’s historic city of Wells. Given to the people 130 years ago by Bishop Lord Arthur Hervey in two parts, in 1887 and 1897, as a place for recreation and amusement, trustees are now determined to bring The Bishop’s Barn back to the heart of community life in Wells.

WRGT Entrance web

The barn has a varied history: from a medieval tithe barn storing grain in the fifteenth century to a 1970s venue for iconic bands such as Status Quo, Supertramp and SLADE –  housing audiences of up to fifteen hundred; from a site for the quartering of Royalist troops during the Bloody Assizes to a roller skating venue in 1910; from an overspill Christmas sorting space for the Post office in 1955 to its more recent use as venue for weddings, celebrations and community events in the 90s: the Bishop’s Barn has seen its fair share of history.

Last week it was announced that the organisation that ran the Wells Bandstand Festival in 2017, Superact, had sadly gone into liquidation. So this venture comes at an important time locally. In light of this trustees are especially keen to re-ignite community opportunities and potentially look at a new means of continuing the summer band concerts.


Image reproduced from Wells and Mendip City Archives with thanks

Councillor John Parham, Chair of the Wells Recreation Ground Trust commented: “This is a great opportunity for Wells and one we hope will be embraced by the community and bring new life, ideas and events to rejuvenate a building already rich with a great history”.

Events can be anything from festivals to networking events, art exhibition to performances, the main things trustees will be looking for is the social and community value of events. Charities and not for profit groups can also use this as an opportunity to raise funds for specific causes and generate an income although applications must demonstrate how these funds will be utilised.

Groups can apply to have access to the barn for anything between 24hrs and 6 days and support will be given for applying for licences needed and use of the facilities.

As part of the scheme successful applicants will need to commit to raising at least £200 towards The Bishop’s Barn Development Fund which will go towards making future improvements to the Barn and Recreation Grounds.


Louise Lappin-Cook Project Development Manager for The Bishop’s Barn commented: “We hope this will provide a wonderful opportunity to bring some new ideas to life. We were especially keen that the programme was open to both individuals and organisations – the barn has a rich history of young people programming acts and events and we wanted to ensure this new scheme reflected that entrepreneurial spirit. We are very excited to see what proposals the community puts forward, our recent survey asking what people wanted to see the barn used for highlighted just how important people feel it is to have a space for the community to come together so we’re looking forward to seeing how people respond.”

The scheme is now open for applications. Individuals or groups need to be located within a 5-mile radius of The Bishop’s Barn or have a significant and demonstrable connection to the city.

To apply, applicants need to submit a completed application form and project budget for their event. The deadline for applications is 9am, 22nd December 2017 for events taking place from February to December 2018. Successful applicants will be announced on 17th January 2018.

Download Application Info Here:

For further enquiries contact

Into the Barn Application Guidance

Application Form


Open Day Success

What a brilliant Open Day we had. Thank you to everyone who came along on Saturday! We had over 400 people through the door – thank you for your wonderful thoughts, ideas and enthusiasm for the barn and its future development.

A HUGE thank you to all the brilliant people who made it such a special day – the amazing Wells Festival of Literature team who sponsored performances, baked cakes and helped out on the day. The brilliant North Somerset Regiment Reenactment Group who shared what life was like during war-time ( Wells Cathedral School Wells Cathedral Junior School who led some marvellous craft sessions and worm-inspired cake creations. Wells Civic Society for their brilliant display and support. Wells & Mendip Museum for all the archive material. The brilliant ForgottenBee for the wonderful poetry workshops and incredible poems about the barn  and the totally magical Craig from Squashbox Theatre and Cheeky McNutFace the Squirrel too! Thank you to everyone who came and helped and supported or baked for the event – we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. 

Join Us For The Bishop’s Barn Open Day!

Join us at the Bishop’s Barn on Saturday 30th September from 12-4pm as we open the doors to welcome in all the community.

The afternoon will include a range of delicious refreshments, workshops and interactive elements, a chance to find out more about the history of the barn, an opportunity to meet some of the WRGT Trustees and feed into the future development of the site and two free family performances by celebrated south-west theatre company Squashbox Theatre.

Final Poster

As part of the day there will also be art work on display from a schools Art Competition. The competition invites entrants to design a 130th commemorative card for The Bishop’s Barn and Recreation Grounds on A4 paper encouraging young people to consider what they might like to happen in the barn for the next 130 years.

The afternoon will also include two fantastic family theatre performances from Squashbox Theatre at 12:45pm and 2:45pm. These performances will be free for all the family.


Squashbox are celebrated for creating quirky and inventive shows incorporating puppetry, storytelling, natural history, live music and comedy.  Created and performed by Craig Johnston – who has also been a member of Cornwall’s international theatre-sensation Kneehigh Theatre Company for the last 15 years – the shows promise a friendly and informal performance style, deft improvisational skills and a gently subversive sense of humour – which is sure to delight adults as well as children.

squashbx Craig

Poet Bryony Jane Brook will also be leading a community poetry workshop inviting local people to pen a poem inspired by the history of the site and marking their vision for its future.

Both performances and the community poetry workshop have been kindly sponsored by Wells Festival of Literature. Sue Rye from the Wells Festival of Literature Education Team commented: “Wells Festival of Literature are delighted to support this Open Day at The Bishop’s Barn and hope that it will inspire many further creative projects in this wonderful community space.”

The day starts at 12pm and goes on until 4pm and will be a wonderful opportunity for local people to see the barn in action and get involved in supporting its future development.

And if you can’t make the 30th September you can also visit The Bishop’s Barn as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days in Wells on Friday 8th September 12-2pm

Wells fest 25 logo

Have Your Say in the Development of The Bishop’s Barn and the Wells Recreation Ground


Fill in the 2017 Wells Recreation Grounds and Bishop’s Barn survey here

We want your feedback on what events and programmes you’d like to see at The Bishop’s Barn, and what kind of place you’d like it to be for the next 130 years!

Below is a link to an online survey which will inform the activity plan developed for the Barn and grounds. Please do share with friends, family, neighbours, colleagues and organisations with an interest in Wells. Thank you very much for your support

Complete the online survey by clicking here