Sidmouth’s Stowford Centre open day attracts praise

New Sidmouth community centre opens its doors to the public for first time

A SPANKING new community facility at Stowford Rise opened its doors for the first time to visitors on Sunday.

Stowford Community Centre held the first of two open days for the public see just what is on offer. The second is tomorrow (Saturday, September 10) from 10am to 4pm.

A reception area leads to a large, bright, community hall, which can hold up to 160 people seated, or be divided into two smaller halls. Off this is a large kitchen with cafe area, to be manned by volunteers in the early days following the centre’s official opening day, Monday, September 12.

A small connecting room can be used as an internet cafe or interview room. The adjoining Children’s Centre, which will be shut to hall users, offers an airy playroom for youngsters, offices for the health visitor team and a safe outdoor play area.

Paul Bennett, from the Children’s Centre, is inviting youngsters from schools in the area to see the facilities and said: “We have co-located with the health team which is unique, so we can run groups alongside them and co-ordinate services.”

Stowford Centre’s management board chairman, Jeff Turner, said he was optimistic about the centre’s future, adding: “We have had quite a few enquiries and, over time, when people get to know about the place, we will be able to build up bookings.”

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He envisages the hall will be used by local groups, conferences, wedding receptions and birthday/anniversary parties.

TAGB Tae Kwon Do teacher Gerry Waugh, currently runs classes for all ages at St Francis Hall, Woolbrook.

He said: “From October 3 ,we will be coming here on Mondays, from 6pm, and Thursdays, from 7pm. We have now outgrown the other hall. With martial arts you need plenty of space and we are bursting at the seams.

“Five people have joined the Sidmouth class in the last month. I need to grow and would have had to turn people down, but here I have space for the group and it allows great potential.”

Trustee Peter Sullivan said the centre had been a long time coming, adding: “I was very impressed by the way the design was put together and I think the quality of the building is exceptional. I’ve never seen a community hall as well laid out and organised. The facilities are for everyone in the whole of the Sid Valley and beyond.

Centre manager Jeff Merrett MBE, said yoga classes and children’s dance groups had booked the hall, together with tea dances and ballroom dance sessions.

“We are hoping to put sports on ourselves, such as short mat bowling and table tennis,” said Jeff, who will be inviting local schools to take part in a competition to design a logo for the centre.

Jan Jones, board vice-chairman and fundraiser, hopes to organise line dancing sessions. She also wants more volunteers to help man the drop-in cafe. You can call her on (01395) 579195 or the centre (01395) 576803.