Weʼre raising £35,000 to replace the cramped shelter access with stairs so that we can share our unique original WW2 air raid shelter with more people.
- Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom
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Did you know that during the war EVERY school had an air raid shelter?
Today the ONLY school shelter open to the public in the UK is at Downs Junior School in Brighton.
The shelter is run by TAKE SHELTER, a passionate group of volunteers, who NEED YOUR HELP to safeguard Brighton's wartime heritage for future generations.
Our vision - a new entrance
We want to be able to share the Downs Junior School air raid shelter experience with as many people as possible BUT there is one obstacle that we can't solve on our own. Access into the shelter is via a small hatch and a steep ladder. This regularly puts off, or physically prevents, visitors of all ages from entering the shelter. In particular it often prevents older people, those for whom the war is still within their living memory, from visiting the shelter.
We want to build a new accessible entrance inspired by the original shelter stairs. This will allow a greater number of people with a greater range of abilities (up to and including ambulant disabled), to access the shelter. Entering the shelter via steps will add to the existing air raid experience as it will be reminiscent of the way everyone entered during the war when they heard the unmistakable sound of the siren.
What we are asking for?
We are now looking to you to help us make this possible. The building work is going to cost £52,800. We will continue to invest all income generated by Take Shelter into this project so we are looking to raise a further £35,000.
This September marks the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the war. We want to bring people together to remember Brighton's wartime history and put Take Shelter at the heart of the city's commemorations.
We are also very aware that our wartime veterans will not be with us for much longer. The shelter provides the ideal stimulus for veterans to share their wartime memories and the perfect backdrop for those who come to listen. We want to invite as many veterans to visit the shelter as possible over the coming five years so we can capture and share as their wartime memories while we can.
"Hearing the veteran's stories really brought the shelter to life in a way that a lesson or a you tube video could not. I can still feel the hairs on the back of my neck go up as the kids, teachers and adults sat crammed on the benches, feeling the claustrophobic atmosphere, hearing air raid siren and the sound of the 'bombers' overhead." Paul Hendrick, local businessman and former Governor at St Luke's Primary, Brighton
The Downs Junior School shelter brings people together across the generations to share memories and understanding of wartime life. We are open to the public during the Brighton Fringe Festival and Heritage Open Days and to school groups and community groups throughout the year. Since 2016 we have welcomed more than 6,000 to this hidden gem of Brighton wartime social history.
A new accessible entrance will mean we can open the shelter more easily and more frequently. Most importantly it will enable us to continue and develop our work so we can share the shelter experience with as many people as possible.
What we have achieved so far:
We have been bowled over by the positive, and often emotional, feedback we receive from our visitors. Our public open days regularly sell out and the number of schools visiting us has doubled in the past year. Everything we have achieved so far has been self-funded and with the support of a small number of donors and sponsors.
"I am always astounded about what Take Shelter achieve on a shoestring. What they offer to schools and local community as a learning experience is unique to the city, and is developing at a rate of knots thanks to the team behind it. It really is the place to go for a learning experience about the Second World War in Brighton." - Helen Graham, Royal Pavilion & Museums
About the shelter:
The shelter, or 'trenches' as it was known, was built in 1939 and housed up to 300 pupils and staff during the day and members of the public after school hours. The conditions were cramped, dark and damp and left a lasting impression on anyone who experienced it.
Children in a school air raid shelter, Brighton (Image reproduced courtesy of The Keep, Brighton.)
After the war the shelter was sealed up and forgotten about until it was rediscovered during a drain inspection in 1983. Sadly a lack of resources to make the shelter safe to use meant that it lay dormant until 2016.
Take Shelter - a new lease of life
Since 2016 the shelter has been restored and the team have created an underground museum of photographs, wartime scenes and poignant film and sound clips, including a realistic simulation of a short air raid complete with vibrations as the bombs drop nearby.
Our volunteer guides lead tours of the shelter and in an hour visitors experience a flavour of what it would have been like to have been a child in wartime Brighton.
Can you help us make our vision a reality?
We are now looking to our supporters in Brighton and beyond to help us to build the new shelter entrance. All contributions, large or small, will bring us closer to being able to share the air raid experience with more people.
Visiting Take Shelter
Want to see the shelter for yourself? The shelter is next open on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September as part of Heritage Open Days. To visit please book your place click here: http://bit.ly/31F9dSJ
If you would like to arrange a tour at any other time or would like to talk about working with Take Shelter please contact us on: firstname.lastname@example.org
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About the fundraiser
Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom
Take Shelter is a a group of dedicated volunteers who run the only school air raid shelter and interactive museum open to the public in the UK.