The Firm Foundations Programme

Firm Foundations

The Firm Foundations Programme is a four-day masterclass for people about to embark on a capital development project in the heritage sector.

Firm Foundations offers delegates the opportunity to learn from respected professionals, to have candid and exclusive insights into the industry and how it works, from procurement and project management to risk management and contracting.

Delegates will be able to share ideas and challenges in a supportive, confidential environment, and draw support from experts and peers.

Our team of professionals with extensive experience in developing and delivering heritage projects, will show you how to prepare, plan, deliver and sustain a successful capital project.

In the below film, Elisa Harris of Krowji, who took part in Firm Foundations last year (2018), talks about her experience of the programme and how it helped her take on and deliver a more effective and impactful capital project.

For more information and to book your space on the 2019/20 Firm Foundations programme, please click this link; or email


My Experiences of Firm Foundations Part Two – Elisa Harris

Firm Foundations part two started at the beautiful Tate St Ives. It was great to catch up with everyone again after a three-month gap. The lightning talks in the morning were quite different from the first time around with everyone speaking much more confidently about their projects.

The morning session was focussed on planning permission and building regulations, with a really useful workshop run by representatives from Cornwall Council in which we were able to ask direct questions e.g. What counts as a non-material amendment? and What requires a resubmission to planning? This was followed by a sneak preview of the Anna Boghiguian show with Sara Matson, Senior Curator at Tate St. Ives, which was a rather special added bonus! 

In the afternoon the course covered procurement and value engineering and the day was topped off with a delicious evening meal in the Tate’s Clore Sky studio. We were privileged to be joined by Marketing Manager Arwen Fitch and Andy Bruton who chatted with us openly about their experience of the capital redevelopment – the highs, the lows and the lessons learned.

Andy Bruton talking at the February 2019 Firm Foundations programme

Andy Bruton giving a talk at Firm Foundations

Day 2 was held at Porthmeor Studios and this is where we got into the nitty-gritty of the construction process. It has to be said that by the afternoon we were all suffering a bit from information overload and it was helpful to be reminded that we don’t have to be experts in every field, the project manager you appoint is there to guide you through the process.

The final session was led by Chris Hibbert, Manager of the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust, who managed the £4 million renovation of Porthmeor Studios. He gave an inspirational talk and a tour of the studios which a great way of demonstrating how everything we’d learnt could be put into practice.

We were all a bit sad when the course came to an end but we’ve agreed to stay in touch and will be planning a reunion at Krowji towards the end of our Phase 2 redevelopment project, which is now underway!

You can find out more about the upcoming 2019/2020 Firm Foundations programme here.

 – Elisa Harris, Krowji Studio Manager

My Experience of Firm Foundations – Elisa Harris

Presentation by CMP CEO Emmie Kell

The invitation to go on the Firm Foundations course came at the perfect time for me. Krowji had secured the match funding for Phase 2 of our redevelopment project and we were waiting for news of our ERDF bid – we have since been told it was successful!

The course is true to its name – designed to enable you to create a solid foundation before embarking on a capital project, there was a huge amount packed into just two days with a good balance of talks, site visits and tasks making it very engaging. During the first half of the course we were given direct access to an impressive list of experts covering everything from board structure to funding and marketing to risk management.

Highlights for me included a talk by Eden’s CEO Gordon Seabright, in which he spoke very candidly about the successes and challenges he’s faced during his time at Eden, and an informal surgery with Phil Gendall of Wolf Rock focussed on creating a clear message in your marketing materials. The risk assessment of preparing and eating a cream tea was also a lot of fun!

Firm Foundations has been designed for small groups of delegates in order to create an open, honest and safe environment in which to share experiences and ask questions. It’s relevant to all levels so there’s a good mix of people who have worked on capital projects and those who have never done anything like this before.

CMP have generously paired each of us with a mentor, one of their team of experts, so that we are supported in the months between the two halves of the course – an invaluable resource which I intend to make full use of. I’m now very much looking forward to diving into second instalment of the course come February, in particular attending an exclusive evening with Jamie Fobert over supper at the Tate!

– Elisa Harris, Krowji Studio Manager

To find out more about the Firm Foundation programme click here

Getting to Grips with Grants: A Funders Perspective

Delegates from across the South West gathered for the first session of the much-anticipated Firm Foundations Programme to learn from expert speakers and share valuable information and advice about how best to approach capital projects.

Setting the scene for the day, and in fact the programme itself, was keynote speaker Kelly Spry Phare, Development Manager for the Heritage Lottery Fund in the South West.  Kelly gave an invaluable insight into how to secure HLF support, outlining the fundamental principles for developing HLF capital projects.  Although this may sound obvious, many organisations fail to consider the must haves, the must do’s and the what if’s. Some of the main topics Kelly discussed in her talk were:

Setting the scene

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded £7.6 billion to over 40,000 projects since 1994, and will continue to award £300m a year in new grants through to 2019, however the pot is shrinking in real terms and as a result competition is increasing.

What are your outcomes?

HLF is looking for projects that focus on heritage, people and communities, and are actively engaging with people.

Accessing the right grant

A range of HLF grants are available, from £3,000 up to £5 million.  Most relevant for capital projects are Our Heritage; Resilient Heritage, Heritage Grants and Heritage Enterprise: each has a different application process with different timescales attached.  Regardless of which programme you choose, you must focus on the outcomes of the project – for people, heritage and communities.

What is assessed on making an application?

Before you even begin writing your application, think honestly about the following:

  • What is the heritage focus of the project?
  • What is the need or opportunity that the project is responding to?
  • Why does the project need to go ahead now and why is Lottery funding required?
  • What outcomes will the project achieve?
  • Does the project offer value for money?
  • Is the project well planned?
  • Is the project financially realistic?
  • Will the project outcomes be sustained?

Your answers will inform – and strengthen- your application.


How long will it take?

The application process itself will take longer than you think, and its important that you plan for this.  By looking at the diagram below, you can get an insight into how long a typical Heritage Grant application can take.


Partnership funding

HLF will ask you to make a contribution towards your project. This is described as ‘partnership funding’ and it can be made up of cash, volunteer time, non-cash contributions, or a combination of all of these. More information on this is available on the HLF website.

Getting help from HLF

If you are interested in HLF funding, the first step is to have a look here – ‘looking for funding’.

Then take a look at the guidance notes as this sets out what HLF fund, the outcomes HLF is looking for and advice about how to make an application – it’s really surprising how many people haven’t done this before they make an application.

If you think your project is a fit, then seek early advice from HLF.  Submit a project enquiry form and start the conversation – you don’t have to have everything fully formed!

For more information on how the Firm Foundations Project can help your capital project, please contact the Cornwall Museums Partnership Office on 01209 500750.