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Community building saved and transformed

Asset transfer in Wolverhampton

June 2017

When the community centre on the Scotlands estate in Wolverhampton was threatened with closure, a group of residents worked together with passion and persistence to put it under community ownership and give it a new lease of life.

By Ellen Burns-Pearce, resident and Big Local ambassador, Scotlands and Bushbury Hill Big Local

3 March 2017 - Launch day! The countdown of years, months, days, minutes and seconds finally came to this moment.

If you had told us this time last year that we would be opening our community centre to the public, you would have been met with some uncertainty. We had been encountering unexpected hurdles and setbacks that were out of our control. In all honesty, it could sometimes be utterly frustrating! But every single member on the Big Local partnership has one thing in common, we all absolutely believed in this project and more importantly, we knew that we could make this a success.

The launch was the day we could finally put a stamp on this little building and say. ‘Hey world, here it is and it’s all yours.’ Out with the old, definitely in with the new. Goodbye to the brown bricks that used to welcome you. Now instead, a crisp floor brightened up what had seemed like an unloved hallway, a hallway that was still in place because we all fought to keep this building. As we all stood and took in our surroundings, that’s when we realised, we had all done this.

Before and after: As well as taking over community ownership of the centre, the Big Local group has funded and overseen a full renovation. 
 
Karen Trainer, resident and chair of the Scotlands and Bushbury Hill Big Local partnership, outside the finished community centre, which is now also a base for a community radio station.
 

Fighting for what matters

Now onto the honest bit, because honesty is the best policy. At times, it has been really hard. All of my peers and I respect one another and we aren’t just a partnership, we are friends. But sometimes horns have been locked and you know what? That's ok! Doing a project like this really does stir something within you. You want this to succeed, you want people to see what you have achieved, and most importantly you want all of your ideas to come to life.

So, if a collective sense of passion means you fight hard for what you want, then so be it, no one will judge you for giving something everything you have! If you are currently doing an asset transfer, thinking of doing one or want to make a difference within your community, then here’s my advice: go right ahead and volunteer!

Everyone has the ability and a fire inside of them to make a difference and sometimes it’s only when we are fighting for something we feel so passionate about that we learn what we are capable of.

A building for everyone

Even though there were setbacks, the positives of doing this outweighed them all. We weren’t just saving a building, we were keeping something in place for the community. Times have been hard and that has been reflected in the closures of community centres everywhere. Up until getting involved with the partnership I presumed every area had a centre that was safe from closure, I never presumed that such an asset to a community could be taken away.

That is why when the Scotlands estate faced this dilemma I knew I had to and wanted to help. When I sat around a table with some very special people (thank you to Chris, Kim, Louisa, Karen, Trudy, Margaret, Wendy and Les, The Mayor and our councillors) I saw hope that we could actually save this building.

Trudy, another resident who has been key to the success of the project, enjoying a cuppa in the community cafe within the centre.
 

People say children are our future and I agree, but I also know that all ages make up a community. Newborns, toddlers, teens, middle aged, our pensioners, and the residents who have seen the area change and familiar faces come and go. This building is for them, for everyone who needs it. For everyone no matter how old or young to know they have somewhere where they belong.

Others may not know the true work that went into saving the building, but we know what we did and on the day of the launch when we all gave each other that relieved knowing smile. Maybe we realised we didn’t need to be thanked, we were all giving back something to the community and that in itself is an achievement you cannot put into words.

So, that little brown brick hallway that has been filled with laughter, tears, muddy footprints and memories still stands and will always stand. But now the hallway is ready for new memories, and that is because we all found a little faith within ourselves to make a huge difference. 

The centre and the people who made it happen — all in cake form! The perfect addition to the opening day celebrations. 
 

The story in Tweets

Launch day video

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