Leicester Secular Society in plea to cleebrity atheists to help raise £40,000
by Peter Warzynski
Celebrity atheists are being asked to help pay for the renovation of a society's headquarters.
Members of Leicester Secular Society are writing to 40 well-known people, including Richard Dawkins and Ricky Gervais, in a bid to raise £40,000 for the project.
The society is also appealing to local secularists to support the scheme to improve the Victorian building in Humberstone Gate.
Work will involve installing an accessible toilet, new kitchen, hearing loop, second fire exit and internal renovation.
The total cost is about £65,000, but the organisation has £25,000 in its reserves which it will use.
Harry Perry, president of the branch, said: "There are certain pressing problems on the ground floor where we have our meetings.
"We've appealed to about 40 celebrity atheists but I don't want to rely solely on them – we'll need our members to help us, too.
"The last census also identified that 24 per cent of the city are non-religious, so we're reaching out to them for help as well."
He said a number of attempts to secure funding had been unsuccessful and the organisation needed the full amount by the end of July.
"We approached the Heritage Lottery Fund, but it said there wasn't enough of a heritage aspect," said Mr Perry.
"The Big Lottery Fund turned us down, too, because it's too much about the building and not enough about the community.
"In fact, 95 per cent of sources of funding require we are a charity or a religious organisation and we're neither."
Leicester Secular Society has about 150 members and has used the grade-II-listed building for 130 years.
It hosts a variety of events, including talks, lectures and meetings by a number of organisations.
Leicester City Council has offered to look at ways of supporting the society with some of the renovation work.
Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: "We'll help where we can with the project. In particular, we'd like it to include some work to the front of the building.
"The Secular Hall is a very important building in Leicester and unique one in the country.
"It has a proud history and is a place where people such as William Morris came to talk about not just secularism but society more generally."
Donate via their website at: www.leicestersecular society.org.uk