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Charles Burrell Centre celebrates its third anniversary

The Charles Burrell Centre is celebrating its third anniversary this month. Pictured in the former school's swimming pool are Sam and James West. Their business, West Brothers, is based there. Picture: Ian Burt

The Charles Burrell Centre is celebrating its third anniversary this month. Pictured in the former school's swimming pool are Sam and James West. Their business, West Brothers, is based there. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

It is a hub which brings together organisations, businesses, charities and different community groups under one roof.

James and Sam West in the swimming pool at the Charles Burrell Centre before they moved their sign making business West Brothers into the premises.  Picture: DENISE BRADLEYJames and Sam West in the swimming pool at the Charles Burrell Centre before they moved their sign making business West Brothers into the premises. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

And it does so with a bit of a difference - a sing making business developed around a former swimming pool and a women’s clothing shop in a room which was once home to men’s toilets.

This month the Charles Burrell Centre is celebrating its third anniversary, with the non-profit organisation continuing to go from strength to strength.

The Charles Burrell Centre, which is celebrating its third anniversary this month, is home to the Thetford Toy Library. Pictured in the toy cupboard (left to right) are toy library co-ordinator Michelle Gray, Angie Elliott and Luke Chamberlain (17 months). Picture: Ian BurtThe Charles Burrell Centre, which is celebrating its third anniversary this month, is home to the Thetford Toy Library. Pictured in the toy cupboard (left to right) are toy library co-ordinator Michelle Gray, Angie Elliott and Luke Chamberlain (17 months). Picture: Ian Burt

Based at the former Thetford Academy south site in Staniforth Road, the facility was reopened in 2014 by Thetford Town Council a year after the school was left empty.

It followed a campaign from local residents and a handful of councillors who felt the building’s 85,000 square feet of space could be an asset to the community.

The Charles Burrell Centre staff.From left to right: centre manager Mark Snowdon, Rosemarie Fullbrook, Dennis Sully, Tom Fadden, Joanne Jenkins and Terry Jermy. Picture: Ian BurtThe Charles Burrell Centre staff.From left to right: centre manager Mark Snowdon, Rosemarie Fullbrook, Dennis Sully, Tom Fadden, Joanne Jenkins and Terry Jermy. Picture: Ian Burt

The site, now run by Charles Burrell Centre Limited, is at 90pc capacity and is home to more than 40 businesses, charities and community groups, including the Thetford Toy Library, Hats Don’t Sell, West Suffolk College and the Thetford Foodbank.

The Charles Burrell Centre at Thetford. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Charles Burrell Centre at Thetford. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Centre manager Mark Snowdon said: “We are very much ahead of where we wanted to be. Over half of the site is used by charities and other community organisations. The other section is used by tenants that have some sort of commercial use and they subsidise the charity groups.”

The centre over the last three years has helped to create or ring-fence more than 130 jobs. There are currently seven members of staff and over the three years there has been more than 100 volunteers at the site.

Hats Don't Sell owner Shane Hunter has opened his business in a space which was once the former school's science storeroom. Picture: Ian BurtHats Don't Sell owner Shane Hunter has opened his business in a space which was once the former school's science storeroom. Picture: Ian Burt

Mr Snowdon added: “It is brilliant and we are really proud of what we have done. The impact on the community has been significant.

“We want to continue what we are doing. We are financially independent. We are hoping to get some funding to improve the facilities with the long-term aim to keep developing the building.”

The former school's science storeroom has been convered into Hats Don't Sell at the Charles Burrell Centre. Picture: Mark SnowdonThe former school's science storeroom has been convered into Hats Don't Sell at the Charles Burrell Centre. Picture: Mark Snowdon

Sign makers the West Brothers have used the school’s former swimming pool to grow their business.

James West said: “This is definitely the best thing we did. It just works and it is now part of our identity. It has done wonders for our business and we known as the guys in the swimming pool.”

To find out more about the centre click here

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