Future of historic community centre is secured

An historic community centre’s future has been secured thanks to a grant of nearly £50,000.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 9:00 am
Amy Nichols (left) and Gary Ganley (right) of Newcastle Building Society with (centre) Earsdon & Wellfield Community Association committee member Leslie Abernethy and (back) members of the art group that meets in the community centre.

Earsdon & Wellfield Community Centre has received £49,288 from Newcastle Building Society’s Building Improvement Grants (BIGs) scheme to help repair its roof, which dates back to 1856 when the building was originally constructed.

In recent years the roof has been in urgent need of repair, with a number of classes and activities at the Church Way venue moved from affected areas of the centre when the weather outside has caused problems inside, with its well-used dance studio being most badly affected.

Now, renovation work is set to begin in February on the whole of the south side of the centre’s roof.

In 2012, a committee of local volunteers took over the centre’s day-to-day management when it came under threat of closure.

Since then, a number of self-funded improvements have been made to bring the building up to modern standard, including installing new central heating and boilers, refurbishing its toilets and kitchen, and replacing its electrics.

The Centre is used for a wide range of events and activities, including Irish dance, Tai Chi and yoga classes, art groups, a new book binding group and the local Simply Dance Academy, and is used by around 500 people every week.

The committee is hoping that the improved environment that will follow from the roof repairs will encourage more local people to make use of the centre for their events and activities.

Leslie Abernethy, committee member, said: "The Centre is a very characterful building and the community has really rallied round over the last few years to enhance what it can offer and once again make it a real hub for local life.

“It’s also very well used by many older local people who don’t otherwise get out of their homes very often, so plays a big role in tackling social isolation in our area.

“The enduring problems with the roof were beginning to cause us serious concerns, and while we’ve been able to make running repairs to the worst-affected parts, we were still having to put buckets out to catch the water that came pouring through it when the weather was bad.

“We’d pretty much reached the point where we were going to have to close off some of our affected rooms, so to be able to get enough funding from the Society to carry out all the required renovation work in one go is a huge boost for everyone involved with the centre.

“We’ve got plans in place for further fundraising work which will support other improvements that we want to make in the future, and we hope to see even more people coming through the door as a result.”

Abbe Hurn, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Park View branch in Whitley Bay, said: "Supporting our communities is a central part of who we are and the Building Improvement Grants scheme was set up specifically with this goal in mind.

“The centre is a hugely important community building and it’s wonderful for us to be able to help ensure it can continue to fulfil this role for many more years to come.”