Blackpool centre is a lifeline - but more volunteers needed

Coun Martin Mitchell outside Layton Community House
Coun Martin Mitchell outside Layton Community House
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When the Sure Start Centre in Layton became a victim of town hall cuts in 2011, it was a huge blow to people living in the area.

But since then the building on Grenfell Avenue has been given a new lease of life as Layton Community House.

From left, Pete Mercer, Peter Higginbottom, Coun Martin Mitchell and trustee Pat Trow.

From left, Pete Mercer, Peter Higginbottom, Coun Martin Mitchell and trustee Pat Trow.

Bids for charitable funding combined with the hard work of volunteers has ensured the building continues to be a lifeline for residents in need of support.

Weekly sessions include a philosphy cafe, vinyl record club and chillout Thursdays.

Now being planned is a dementia friendly memory cafe after the centre received a grant of nearly £10,000 from Awards for All.

Layton councillor Martin Mitchell says the centre is now filling a crucial role in the community with regular organised events as well as encouraging residents to just drop in.

He said: "We kept provision ticking over using our councillors' ward budget and in 2014 volunteers took it over.

"Now the house is being very well used and the next step is to launch an 'afternoons to remember' project.

"We aim to decorate the downstairs in a dementia friendly way and invite people in from the local care homes as well as individuals and their carers.

"We hope to put on specialist activities such as singing and bringing in memorabilia which will tap into people's memories."

The project will be the latest of a series of community activities based at the house.

These also include counselling sessions and meetings such as the Friday Recovery Group for people with mental health issues.

House manager Pete Mercer, who took on the role when he retired from 40 years as Blackpool Council's property services manager, said: "The day centres which used to offer this kind of thing have dried up in the local authority cutbacks.

"So the group meetings we are able to hold have helped fill this gap.

"The house also offers people somewhere where they feel totally in their comfort zone. There is no clinical feel to it.

"Often people feel as if they are in their own front room."

Layton resident Peter Higginbottom is among the users for whom the centre has made a real difference, and now he is involved in setting up some of the activities.

He said: "It was clear to me from the start that the ethos was very caring and welcoming.

"I like to try and brainstorm about potential groups as we are always trying to grow.

"I started the vinyl record group and we meet about twice a month, and we've also got some groups who listen to jazz and blues music.

"It has really helped people, especially those who might not have anywhere else to go."

After the Sure Start Centre shut in 2011, the building was used as a family centre by children's charity Aspired Futures before being taken over by Blackpool Carers until they moved into their own premises.

In November 2016, Layton Community House became a charity in its own right and secured three years funding of £45,000 from the Tudor Trust.

The centre now needs more volunteers to help with activities, particularly the new dementia project, and is also seeking donations of old china tea sets so it can serve afternoon teas.

Anyone who would like to volunteer or donate can call the centre on 01253 391811 or go online at www.laytoncommunityhouse.co.uk