Silver Road Community Centre hailed as special part of Norwich’s history
- Credit: Steve Adams
Britain's great war leader, Sir Winston Churchill, was invoked as campaigners celebrated a modern-day battle for survival, to save a major community asset.
'This is not the beginning of the end – but it may be the end of the beginning,' said guest speaker William Armstrong, the Sheriff of Norwich, as supporters gathered for the first annual general meeting of the Silver Road Community Centre.
An enthusiastic audience heard from trustees' chairman Ian Gibson how the venue in Silver Road, Norwich, had been nearly lost – repeatedly – over the last five years as campaigners struggled to stop it being sold by Norfolk County Council.
'There was a time when I thought this place was going to end up as flats. It has been a real triumph,' said Dr Gibson.
The turning point came in 2013 when new leadership at the council offered the group a 25-year lease for a 'peppercorn' rent. And on Friday a new board of trustees was elected, alongside a committee of volunteers.
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Grants and donations have funded essential repairs, allowing for party bookings and for activities ranging from kung fu to crafts, from a dementia café to a youth club, reflecting what Dr Gibson called 'a determination to make this a place for the whole community'.
Mr Armstrong – invoking Churchill's famous 'end of the beginning' speech from 1942 – said: 'Where you are today has not just happened, but is the fruit of much determination and the work of many people.'
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He said Silver Road reflected something special about Norwich – the huge amount of volunteering that goes on in the city.
'As I go around the city, I see volunteers running food banks and lunch clubs. I find them at Age UK, Mind, Nofolk and Norwich Association for the Blind… the East Coast Truckers. All that is really inspiring,' he added.
'For all kinds of reasons, in recent decades – perhaps since the war – community has broken down. People do everything much faster. They are busy. Many more people live alone. That is why this place is so important. Where there is a sense of community, people tend to live happier and healthier lives.'
• For more information about activities at Silver Road Community Centre, see the website on www.silverroadcc.org or contact secretary Julie Brociek-Coulton on 07786 694325, or email julie on email@example.com