Noel Dixon, Brenda Gilmore and Gillie Boggon at St Michael's Church. (Picture: Keith Blundy)

A church project that seeks to help the community make fuller use of the church and its grounds as a way of promoting wellbeing has been awarded nearly £80,000 in Big Lottery Grant which will enable the project to continue its work for a further 3 years.

The Breathing Space project based at St Michael’s and All Angels in Witton Gilbert nr Durham City was founded in 2011 in an attempt to use the peaceful space of our church and the adjoining dene to provide a place for people to pause, reflect and slow down, promoting wellbeing for members of the community. Since the project started it has raised nearly £200,000 in grants and through fundraising.

Chair of Trustees, Noel Dixon said: “We have developed the concept by providing a range of activities enabling people to relax and socialise. Activities include Mindfulness, Men’s Shed, Get Active, Folk Singing, Creative Writing and Organised Walks.

“Our church is open every day with refreshments provided. Breathing Space has become the principal form of mission for our parish. Whilst our activities are open to all people of faith and those people with none, our Christian values underpin everything we do.”

Fundraising Champion, Trustee and Vice Chair of the project, Brenda Gilmore commented: “We applied to The Big Lottery Reaching Communities Programme for 3 years Core Funding and 2 years Activity Funding to the tune of £79,193, and we are overwhelmed and thankful to be awarded this grant.  To be recognised as a worthy recipient of this award has proved the value of the work we do.”

Noel Dixon, Gillie Boggon and Brenda Gilmore – a welcome to Breathing Space at St Michael’s Church. (Picture: Keith Blundy)

The grant now gives Project Co-ordinator Gillie Boggon extended hours and more time to liaise, network and administer her duties that have been so pivotal in the success of the project since she was appointed in 2013.

Commenting on the news, Gillie said: “Whilst I have continually been blessed by being part of Breathing Space, the funding will enable me to plan ahead and to make further developments within the brief and ultimately benefit the participants with new activities and more effective outcomes.”

Brenda concluded: “We hope to continue working long into the future, creating a unique set of opportunities for groups and individuals who are seeking a ‘Breathing Space’ in their lives and ultimately improve their mental and physical wellbeing.”

Gillie with Gary Packard from ‘Free the Way’ based in Seahawk – who volunteers on a Monday at breathing space as part of the Men’s Shed project. (Picture: Keith Blundy)


Activities that are undertaken within the project include:

  • Men’s Shed – conservation
  • Get Active – seated gentle exercise for those being rehabilitated.
  • Mindfulness Walks / Courses – learning to live in the moment.
  • Creative Writing – using the outdoors as inspiration
  • Folk Singing
  • Woodland Wonders – Children’s forest school
  • Walk for life – starting from St Michael’s 10 circular routes.
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