Centre rises from the ashes after closing due to financial pressures

David Moses and Karen Ballantyne put up the Christmas decorations. Picture by John Tuttiett.
David Moses and Karen Ballantyne put up the Christmas decorations. Picture by John Tuttiett.

A people’s centre has risen from the ashes after it closed its doors two years ago.

The future of Wallsend Memorial Hall and People’s Centre looked bleak when the facility closed in September 2013 and its trading arm went into liquidation due to financial problems.

But now a group of hardy volunteers has taken over the reins and is offering it to members of the Wallsend community, reporting a profit in its first year.

Karen Hardy and Maureen Madden, supported by 13 other volunteers, have worked hard to keep the building afloat.

Ms Hardy said: “We had been running a business from the centre before leaving in 2012. We came back and have been keeping an eye on the centre, helping the volunteers get through this. It is an amazing building. It belongs to the people of Wallsend.”

The Grade II-listed building was built in 1883 by shipyard entrepreneur Sir GB Hunter, and an extension was added in 1925, including a memorial to the Swan Hunter workers who fought in World War I.

Ownership was later signed over to the people of Wallsend, and it has been under the representation of a board of trustees for more than a century.

As well as day to day maintenance, the volunteers, supported by a number of residents looking for work, have re-opened the cafe and attracted a number of classes to the centre.

One of the most popular attractions is a gym, which has grown over the year from employing two personal trainers to four.

Ms Hardy said: “More and more people are using the venue on a weekly basis, we are even getting some Christmas party bookings.

“When residents come in they say they thought the place had closed, but are delighted it is open again. It was only closed for four months.”

She added: “We got funding to redevelop the computer room while the Probation Service oversaw the repainting of the building.

“There’s an awful lot of work gone in over the last 12 months.

“The volunteers have gone a long way to helping us.”