We're awaiting visit from Queen

Next week the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will pay their first official visit to Norwich in eight years.Reporter Kim Briscoe found out more about one of the charities the royal visitors will be spending time with on the trip.

Next week the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh will pay their first official visit to Norwich in eight years.

Reporter Kim Briscoe found out more about one of the charities the royal visitors will be spending time with on the trip.

Ever since it was announced Her Majesty the Queen would be visiting the Norfolk and Norwich Association for the Blind (NNAB), there has been a flurry of activity and excitement at its Norwich headquarters, in Magpie Road.

As patron of the association, she will be visiting on Tuesday, May 4, to formally open the charity's new �1.5m Bradbury Activity Centre.

During the visit, the royal couple will be meeting many of the blind and partially sighted people the association helps, as well as staff, volunteers and donors, without whose support the building of the new centre would not have been achieved.

Most Read

NNAB chief executive John Child said that although the Queen was patron of the charity, she had never visited its headquarters before.

He said: 'We put in for the visit but were very surprised when we found out she would be coming.

'We are really pleased. It is a great honour for us and we hope to make her visit as enjoyable and interesting as possible.'

On the same day the royal party will also be visiting Norwich Cathedral for a tour of the hostry and refectory.

Timings and the precise route the royals will take will be announced closer to the time.

What the association does

For more than two centuries, the NNAB has been helping blind and partially-sighted people in Norwich and Norfolk.

Today it helps an estimated 20,000 people in the county by providing a wide range of services in the community, including a residential home, supported housing and an extensive home visiting service.

Its 300 active volunteers help it to offer an impressive range of educational, leisure and sporting activities.

The association employs 74 staff and puts around �550,000 worth of charitable income into the community each year. It receives no state funding, relying entirely on income from investments, donations and legacies, and from its charity shop in Magdalen Street, Norwich.

But the jewel in its crown is its recently completed �1.33m activity centre at its Magpie Road base.

Named the Bradbury Activity Centre, after the Bradbury Foundation, which donated �300,000, the new building has already started to provide opportunities for people of all ages.

It is a place where personal confidence can be developed, new skills learnt, new friends made and help given to start, or return to, employment.

Subtly contrasting colours and textured pathways with raised edges are just some of the special design features used by architect David Marris to ensure the building is easy to use by blind and visually-impaired people.

It boasts a low vision clinic, equipment centre including adapted kitchen, activity hall, coffee shop, atrium lobby, children's room, a recording room for producing spoken newsletters, a Braille room, IT training suite, a craft room and other offices and activity rooms.

The association's previous equipment centre was housed on the site in a cramped space and manager Dorothy Bowen said the new centre had made a huge difference to her work.

She said: 'We have so much more space to see people and people have more privacy when they do come in.

'With more room we can also display our equipment a lot better and companies really want to work with us to show their new aids and equipment.

'Because the equipment centre is next to the activity hall it means that we can now have exhibitions by companies with access through to the equipment centre.'

Real proof of just how the new centre has transformed the association's ability to host large-scale events will come in June at its 'solutions for independent living' day.

A range of companies will be showcasing their magnification and CCTV products and visual aids in the activity hall, while people will be able to meet with the rehabilitation team from Norfolk County Council's adult and children's services, and hear talks by a visually impaired cookery author.

Mrs Bowen said the new Bradbury Centre was 'gathering momentum' in terms of being used more and more since the building was completed last November.

She said: 'The centre is now used for Braille and computer classes, a gardening group, exercise classes and we have just set up a drop-in craft group.'

However, the association is still trying to raise money towards the total cost of the project. If the remaining �200,000-odd funds cannot be raised they will have to be met through the charity's reserves.

It is operating a Buy-a-Brick scheme which will see donors' names displayed on bricks on the staircase at the new centre. Bricks cost either �10 or �15 and can be bought by contacting the association on 01603 629558 or by email at office@nnab.co.uk.

More information about the NNAB is available at its website at www.nnab.org.uk.

Has the centre helped turn your life around? Contact Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

For a special 8-page supplement on the Queen's visit buy Wednesday Evening News.