It's a new chapter for this former Blackpool library which remains at the heart of the community

Stepping across the threshold of the South Shore Community Centre you are met with a hive of activity.

Friday, 2nd November 2018, 8:23 am
Updated Friday, 2nd November 2018, 3:08 pm
Brian Coope, Pat Barber, Karen Coope, Julie Burrows and Alan Barber.
Brian Coope, Pat Barber, Karen Coope, Julie Burrows and Alan Barber.

Retired ladies are busy making cards in the craft room while tots from a nearby nursery are using space in another room for games.

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The events are mainly run by volunteers who have dedicated themselves to retaining a community hub inside the building which was home to Highfield Library until 2004.

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Dorothy and Penny from the card-making group

When the library was shut down by the council as part of a raft of library closures, it seemed the site had become redundant.

But local residents came to the rescue, forming the South Shore Community Association to keep the building open.

Now that group has been superseded by the South Shore Community Partnership which in September was granted a five-year lease for the property by the council at a peppercorn rent of £1 per year.

In return the partnership has taken over the running costs and maintenance of the property which amount to around £12,400 per year.

Members of the card-making group

The injection of new faces to the organising committee has given the centre fresh impetus, while the need to cover running costs has put the focus on maximising the potential of the site on Highfield Road.

Committee member Karen Coope said: "Getting the lease has given us certainty to plan more.

"We're hoping to hire the centre out more as we have to cover our costs, and local businesses are coming in to use the building.

"It's amazing how many people say they didn't know we were here even after all the good work that has gone on.

"Activities like our craft group are doing really well, but it's mainly ladies who attend.

"So the next step is to create a 'man cave' in the new year and we are going to set up a session making matchstick models."

Karen and her husband Brian, who is chairman of the South Shore Partnership, are leading the drive to reinvigorate the centre.

But they are quick to credit Pat and Alan Barber who helped keep the building open initially.

Pat said: "A lot of us got together and decided to approach the council to change the building into a community centre.

"The council said we could, as long as we were self sufficient. We started with five ladies and slowly more people joined and now there are 33 on the books for the craft class.

"Alan and I have been on the committee for 13 years. We couldn't afford a cleaner at one stage so we both did the cleaning.

"But we needed new input and Brian and Karen came in, having set up the South Shore Partnership."

And with town hall budget cuts having led to a reduction in the council's own community services, the contribution of volunteers is filling the gap.

For those attending the craft group, the community centre has changed their lives for the better.

Pauline Grayer, 72, said: "It's somewhere where we can all meet up and as well as doing something creative, we have all made a lot of friends.

"This building has been under threat for years and we have fought hard to keep it.

"The council didn't seem to want it, so it's the best outcome that volunteers are running it.

"It's going from strength to strength and there are opportunities for further classes and for more people to come along."

Jean Green, 87, said: "It's a social occasion and we've all made lots of new friends here. I would be lost without this place.

"Where else can elderly people meet up? It stops people from being lonely and gets us out of the house and doing something interesting."

To find out more, contact the centre on 01253 405490

What's on at the centre?

Sessions range from scrabble to sewing, crafts to computers, as well as whist nights, yoga and an art class.

There is a charge per class of £1.50, which includes tea and biscuits, plus additional charges for some craft sessions.

Special events are also planned including a Christmas craft fair on Saturday November 17 from 11am until 3pm.

On Friday December 7 there will be a Christmas tree lights switch-on between 4.30pm and 6.30pm with Father Christmas, and children from Roseacre Primary School and Bluebell Lodge Nursery singing carols.

Who else uses the centre already?

Blackpool Citizen's Advice Bureau is holding weekly outreach sessions at the centre as part of a six-month pilot scheme.

Appointments are available each Thursday, call 01253 308410 to book.

Tracy Hopkins, chief executive officer at CAB, said: "The appointments have been fully booked and we have helped people with a wide range of issues from claiming benefits, helping with debts and finances, appealing benefit decisions and income maximisation.

"This help has resulted in local people becoming more financially stable and has alleviated the stress and pressure people often feel when faced with uncertainty. "

Other groups include the Chinese Sunday School, Bluebell Lodge Nursery and Cassie's yoga classes.

A spokesperson for Bluebell Lodge Nursery said:"Our children regularly attend sessions there with one of our qualified sports coaches to take part in physical activities."