Building up Bispham

Bispham Community Centre -campaigners Sue Clifford and Caroline Thompson
Bispham Community Centre -campaigners Sue Clifford and Caroline Thompson
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Bispham Community Centre is looking for potential members.

It really doesn’t have to look too far. It could start with the young mums and dads on its doorstep every weekday afternoon bar school holidays.

They park there to pick up children from a nearby primary school which has a pocket-sized car park. There’s been an uneasy truce between the community centre staff and the parents parking for some time – but centre staff say bagging their car park spaces comes at some cost to the community facility which has struggled to keep going over the years.

At least one course has been cancelled 
because would be recruits simply couldn’t park outside because of the clash of times with the school run. And others tend to wait till the vehicles have moved on.

Today, however, two of the new centre stalwarts have The Gazette on site – and having just fought to find a car parking space myself I’m surprised to find the centre itself empty.

As I pause to take a picture of the packed park to illustrate the point they are trying to make one mum makes for me like a guided missile. “Why are you taking pictures?” I tell her. “So why not charge us to park here – that would get some money in?” she retorts.

It’s a fair point and well made by Anjie Mosher and, furthermore, the centre may have just made a formidable ally.

Anjie is one of those women who Gets Things Done. And it’s clear from the chat she’s having with two of the centre’s new steering group members that Caroline Thompson and Susan Clifford are of like mind.

It isn’t long before a potentially fractious confrontation has turned friendly – and 
Anjie is offering to lend her support to the campaign to keep the centre going and chipping in with the offer of some cookery workshops for young mums and other carers.

Anjie’s work has already been a hit with the Hairy Bikers. She hit the headlines some years ago with her tribute to her late mum Renee, Hug From Mum recipes and allied website, celebrating the comfort her mother’s cooking had brought her.

She recalls the first time she cooked one of her mother’s recipes after her death was ... “like I’d had a hug from my mum.” Her campaign to promote proper home cooking has since raised funds for Marie Curie cancer care and won her a flying visit from Hairy Biker chefs Si King and David Myers last year.

“Learning how to cook gives you something to pass on to your families,” says Anjie. But Anjie’s one of countless locals who live near the community centre on Bispham Road, near Bispham Endowed School, but seldom venture through its doors.

The centre’s battered but undefeated. Yobs recently smashed the windows, boarded up until they can be replaced with something more robust. It’s a sign of the times - glass windows make for too easy a target for mindless morons who don’t appreciate the good work within.

Caroline and Susan, a retired civil servant, have joined forces to regenerate a resource they remember of old. A Helen Bradley print donated in memory of two local victims of the Tenerife air disaster in April 1980 is still pride of place within the large hall which doubles for sports, dance or theatre work. Hire costs remain reasonable for spacious rooms accommodating slimming support groups, zumba, Fylde Coast Figure Skate Bop, tai chi and mediation, pilates and more. There’s potential for far greater use of the large hall. As part of the fightback from a funding crisis - the centre is now back in the black. Now the new look committee has vowed to put the centre back at the heart of the community it purports to represent. “We’ve got funds to keep going for 12 months, “ adds Caroline. “We’ve got help from some local companies, too. People have been very kind.”

Susan agrees: “Bispham is one of the oldest parts of Blackpool and has a very distinct identity and sense of community. People are proud to live in Bispham. We need them to take ownership of this centre too.

“Many are coming together and giving of their time and experience voluntarily- one decorator painted the centre free of charge.

“There’s a diverse range of classes running and variety of events. We work in partnership with local schools, the college, and are trying to get more businesses involved and secure sponsorship. But we need more volunteers, and we need more people to be part of who we are now, where we want to be and how we can go about winning funding, support and generally making Bispham a better place to live, work or play.”

A recent craft and gift fair hosted there was a big success and the next chance to showcase what the centre has to offer comes this weekend - with a kids and baby fair on Sunday from 11am to 4pm, free entry again.

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