Coventry Society member Alan Griffiths will have his formal investiture for his award of MBE in the Queen’s official birthday honours on 12th September 2019.
Alan said it is difficult to put in words how proud he personally feels at being nominated and accepted for the award.
“It is important to point out that although I feel a personal pride at the Queens Award no way could this been achieved without support along the way from staff, friends and relations.”
“A Grand Opening” by the Lord Mayor of Coventry for the one-million-pound new Broad Street Community Hall is planned for the beginning of 2020.
Alan joined the Coventry Society many years ago with the belief “that it is an excellent group to belong to with friendly faces and a real commitment to help keep Coventry’s history alive and to promote the city as a good and better place to live. The regular monthly meetings are so interesting, inside during the winter months and out visiting incredible places when the sun shines.”
Alan has written a little about himself which we think will interest you.
“I was born and bred in Coventry. I love Coventry & Warwickshire! My father worked for Armstrong Whitworth as a foreman. Mum worked at the Co-op in Corporation Street. My sister Roslyn is the clever one – she worked as a P.A. By brother Terry works at Rolls Royce as a metallurgist. We still remain a close family.”
Alan is an Engineer by trade (a Toolmaker). He was an apprentice with Rutter Gauge & Tools and is a City of Coventry Freemen’s Guild member. An apprentice at the same time was lifelong friend, Mike Rawson. “The factory was an old cold place to work. We earned less than £2 a week (on my paper round I was earning £4 a week). Health and safety had not been invented and we suffered with chilblains and coughs. We worked in many departments gaining a wide knowledge of the industry.”
Alan married his wife Jill who he met at the Locarno Dance club in the days of the mini skirt era. They set up home together in Bedworth.
Alan’s hobbies include a keen interest in motorcycles and cars. He owns an old Jaguar XJS V12 and is a member of the Jaguar Club. He still enjoys riding a motorbike with brother Terry. Alan belongs to several local societies.
Alan continued working as an engineer in Coventry for B.O. Morris Jig & Tool Div. Then he moved to the toolroom of Standard Triumph finally ending up at Rover Triumph works in Radford.
Alan went self-employed in the “problem years” of the 1970s/ 1980s as Alan visualised the end to our old out of date car industry in the country.
He worked in a back yard shed with his retired father building storm porches. Alan knocked on doors selling also fitting them in the local area.
He Joined the Round Table organisation having fun also doing community work in the local area and is still an active member. His grey hair makes him ideal for Santa on the back of a sleigh each December. The arrival of three children kept his home life busy. Christopher, Helena and Marie are now grown up; one is a doctor, another a district nurse and the youngest a teacher. They produced grandchildren – three normal plus triplets (now 5 years old). Alan says “It keeps us very busy”.
Alan moved into a small factory in Broad Street, Coventry. It was originally a butchers’ shop in 1912, which was then being used as a printing works. With the help of a bank loan he took up the challenge from the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, to make Britain prosperous again. According to Alan the PM took on the unions, forced non profitable business out and Britain began to prosper. Alan and partner Jim Dudley set up a windows and door (Double glazing) business. Within 5 years he moved 2 doors away to the old Alfred Herbert building in Broad Street with a floor area of 6000 sq. ft. Alan taught himself how to programme and use a computer, which helped to make it a successful business employing up to 26 people at one time. “Many employees who joined us in the early days went onto work in the company for over 30 years”. Alan’s first big job was replacing windows at Jaguar’s Daimler Road offices.
“It is important to note that a company can only be successful if it has reliable and trustworthy staff which Broad Street Windows were fortunate to have. Manager Val Gordon (no longer with us) and Graham Jones (a school friend) worked for me for over 30 years. The biggest medal should go for the long suffering Allison Good who joined the company from school in the early eighties and we still work together now for the community hall after 38 years”.
Not all things went smoothly during this period as the country again went through several recessions. However the company was strong enough to ride the ups and downs of business.
During this period the company “accidentally” purchased an old derelict community hall next to the property. It was needed for the shared driveway. Following requests from local resident groups to use the hall a team of friends, relations and staff put in many hours of work and money to make it habitable again and re-opened it for local residents. Alan had a dream of replace the old building with a new purpose build centre. This was 15 years ago, but the task of applying to the Big Lottery was too big to tackle at that time.
“With the experience of running a business it was easy for us to set up the community to run as a small business, allowing funding applications to be made to help run the hall efficiently. Groups using the hall were varied from Bingo, Faith, Keep Fit and Mums, children, taekwondo groups along with tuition classes.”
“It is strange how helping out on the community front also has its rewards. Working with NHS “Sure Start “group, who wanted to use the hall, led to Broad St Windows obtaining the company’s biggest order – £250K to replace windows & Doors at Gulson Road old hospital block. I would like to emphasise the opportunities that business can benefit in strange ways and encourage other companies to work in the community.”
As a business we decided to down-size, stopping the manufacturing side of the business, concentrating instead , with the aid of computer technology, selling, assembly and fitting windows and doors. Buying in the products allowed us to offer a larger range of dedicated tailor-made units.”
“Five years ago, along with support from Andy Duncan who we engaged as a project manager we decide to tackle the funding project. Anyone who has tried to obtain £10K will know what a challenge it is, with mountains of paperwork involved. So you can imagine the challenge it is to raise over one million pounds of funding! The Big lottery agreed this after a four-year battle. We were successful with our bid having satisfied them that our plans and intensions would help the local community and prove that we were a trustworthy company to deal with to undertake such a large re-build project.” Our contribution also meant that we had to find £200K from other funding sources.
A big problem arose as funding did not include moving into temporary accommodation for the hall users to continue their activities. If users move away, even temporarily, it is hard to get them back. Unable to find suitable premises a decision was made to close the window and door business and change to a construction company. Broad Street’s original premises could then be converted into a community hall so that hall users had a place to meet while the new build took place. Again, funding had to be achieved (£80k) for this work to be undertaken which was expensive due to meeting the building work high safety standards required.
Conversation of the building was completed; groups then moved into the temporary hall and the old hall was demolished.
“The Committee and volunteers applied successfully for the Queens Award for Voluntary Service, of which we are immensely proud. It gives us that wonderful emblem to display on all our correspondence.”
Work started on the new building but not without a few problems as the ground was found to be unstable which meant we had to find another £70K. The Big Lottery would not fund the extra work involved which meant we are continuing to fund raise to cover fixtures and fitting. We now have reduced the short fall down to just £30K.
As an organisation Broad Street Meeting Hall is also very proactive in the local area. They are at present running the Edgwick Park Project in conjunction with the City Council, planting trees, flowers, building bird boxes with local schools also arranging events in the park such as sport in the park, Bands in the Park etc.
The Induction of Alan’s Queen’s Birthday Award MBE will take place on 12th September 2019. The Society is very proud to have Alan as a member.