When West Sussex County Council announced in 2012 it would have to close a raft of centres across the county, one Horsham community took matters into their own hands.
The users of Holbrook Community Centre in North Heath Lane agreed with the council to have the asset transferred to their committee. Some 18 months after that was completed, they now have activities running there all days of the week.
Built by the council as a dedicated youth centre, young people remain a focus at the club.
Although the council deemed it to be in an area of low need for youth services, the centre now has up to 15 young people attending the weekly group for seniors and the weekly junior youth evening attracts 50 to 80 young people.
Ray Chapman, chairman of the centre’s five-strong management committee said: “The whole committee wanted to keep the youth side of it.
“A youth worker from 4’ the Youth’ runs it. Dean has been in youth work for years and he runs a very successful group.
“They said it was not needed. We felt there was a need and we have proved it.
“The community do want to use it. There are other clubs like the Roffey Millennium Hall, the Holbrook Club, Tythe Barn, but it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”
Activities available to the young people include pool, table tennis, coffee bar and tuck shop, football and basketball in the floodlit outdoor court, topical discussions, air hockey, games consoles and arts and crafts.
There are also plans to have a graffiti artist in to decorate the walls around the courtyard with the teenagers.
As well as the success of the youth programme and the daily Over the Rainbow Pre-School, the club is hired out regularly by Go Church on Sundays, a weekly Zumba class and it is a popular venue for children’s parties.
A Brownies group and the Broadwood Morris Men’s group also hire the club once a week for their activities.
Volunteer hire co-ordinator and committee member Liz Pratt said: “It’s hired out more. For me, my interest was my business (the Over the Rainbow Pre-School).
“That runs from here and should anything happen to the hall the children would suffer and so would I.
“The play school opened in 1996. I bought it in 2009.
“We have Zumba with 20 plus people. We have priced ourselves at a reasonable rate.
“It’s ideal for children’s parties. It’s done really, really well.”
Ray, who has been the chairman of management committee for 20 years, explained it has not been an easy process.
He said: “There were four of us on the management committee. We had a business plan and county were really impressed with it. At the point we made the asset transfer, the funding stopped. It was a lot of hard work.
“We have had more hirers because we’ve advertised it. Now it’s needs must. Before it was being financed by West Sussex County Council.
“As you can imagine it’s hard - mowing the lawn, maintenance - everything - was their responsibility; now it’s our responsibility.
“We are not making millions, but we are running ok. As long as we keep getting grants. That’s what they’re there for and Peter (Catchpole) helps - championing our cause.”
County councillor Mr Catchpole (Con, Holbrook) praised the volunteers’ work.
He said: “As a member of the management team I know it has not all been plain sailing to get to this point, however, right from the start the will and commitment of the management committee, all of whom are volunteers, was there to make it succeed.
“Their commitment has been exceptional.”
He added: “It is their support and that of residents, businesses and organisations that will help ensure the future success of the Holbrook Community Centre.”
The club has also invested in wireless internet access and young people can use four computers.
The club is completely self-funded and the committee has organised a new kitchen, new flooring to be installed as well as having some of it redecorated. The committee would love to get the rest of the centre decorated as well as have new shutters, windows and doors fitted throughout the building.
They are also always looking for people to join the committee.
Ray would like to see more businesses using the centre in coming years. He said: “I used to work in a global company in Crawley which made radiotherapy equipment. When we had strategy meetings we used to hire a hotel or somewhere.
“If we made it more friendly-like, a bit flash. We have the playschool in the mornings, but afternoons they can come in or on Saturdays. That’s the way I think it could go.
“If we made it suitable perhaps someone in corporations would like to come along.”
Full list of activities
There are the following regular activities running throughout the week at the Holbrook Community Centre:
Sunday, 9am to 1pm, Go Church
Monday to Friday 9am to 12noon - Over the Rainbow Playschool
Monday, 7pm - Zumba exercise class
Tuesday 7-9pm Senior youth evening by 4 the Youth
Wednesday 6.30-8.30pm Junior youth evening by 4 the Youth
Thursday 5.30-7.30pm Brownies; 8-10pm Broadwood Morris Men
If you are interested in hiring the community centre outside these hours for an event or for a regular booking then contact Liz Pratt on 01403 210550 or 07909 714025 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the club go to www.hol brookcc.co.uk