In 2014, Wellingborough Council decided it couldn’t afford to keep a day centre for the elderly open so residents, left reeling by its closure, stepped up and took it on.
Glamis Hall is a community centre in the middle of a sprawling ex-council estate in Wellingborough, part of Northamptonshire that scores high on the index of deprivation. A day centre for the over 50s, inside there’s a large hall with a kitchen and servery, a community room, and sports changing rooms. Outside, a fleet of electric vehicles, funded by Power to Change to help people get to and from the centre, are charged from electricity generated by the building’s solar panels.
Heather Saunders, the driving force behind the centre’s rescue, recalls: “It all started when I got the letter one Saturday morning saying the centre was being closed and to seek alternative provision. I spent Sunday looking for my mum and there was no alternative provision, so I took pictures of the letter, posted it on the largest local Facebook group and said: ‘this is disgusting we need to do something about it’.
“It got quite a decent response, so I set up a public meeting and a group of us launched a campaign and submitted a business plan. The council transferred the building over and we’ve been running the centre since 2015. We have amazing staff and volunteers, people who go far further than you would ever expect, and I’m chair of trustees!
As well as being a day centre for the elderly, Glamis Hall provides much needed space and activities to the local community. “When we started campaigning, we realised a lot of people from the area remembered the hall when it was built in the 70s as a windowless community centre. They had fond memories of going down there as a kid for Karate, discos or taking their babies to be weighed there.”
“All sorts of things that one by one stopped happening over the decades. We decided we would reinstate the community centre feel so while the day centre is our core business and where we get most of our trading income from, the community side is really important too.”
The centre runs various affordable events for people: a youth club; football club; subsidised theatre groups and monthly indoor boot sales from September to May so people have got places to go to get things cheaply. Free Christmas and summer events host hundreds of local children and mean local people can get out and enjoy themselves without it costing much money.
“We get some fabulous feedback for the events that we put on and the help we are able to give. Our default position when asked for help is ‘we will try’. When Covid hit, our income pretty much ceased. It was a really, really difficult time but we dug in and didn’t say no when people needed help.” Far from it. Glamis Hall started to shop for and provide food parcels, toiletries, and other much needed products to their community. “As things went on it changed from people needing medication in the first instance to people, already on minimum wage, being made redundant or furloughed needing help with their everyday lives.”
“Power to Change have been absolutely fabulous, the grant process was so simple I was just amazed. When they phoned me to tell me we’d got the first £30k I was in tears. That £30k was the difference between us potentially going bust and carrying on. Then we got the second lot, and I knew we would be okay. That we could pay the staff and keep as much of our service going as possible despite running it at a loss.
“We really value their support and I know we are valued by local people. Now, on Facebook groups when someone asks a question, often people that I’ve never heard of will say ‘go to Glamis Hall they will help you’.”