Charles Burrell Centre members celebrate first year’s achievements at AGM

The Thetford Young Business Group's summer social event at the Charles Burrell Centre. Mayor of Thet

The Thetford Young Business Group's summer social event at the Charles Burrell Centre. Mayor of Thetford Terry Jermy, Mayor's Consort Corinne Fulford, town councillor Denis Crawford and centre manager Mark Snowdon with young businesspeople and students from Thetford Academy. - Credit: Archant

A community hub which came out its first year with a financial surplus has celebrated its achievement with residents and tenants at its first AGM.

Staff and volunteers from the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford, which is celebrating its first ann

Staff and volunteers from the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford, which is celebrating its first anniversary. - Credit: Archant

The Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford opened in the old Thetford Academy south campus building in 2014 has gone from strength to strength under the management of the cooperative Charles Burrell Centre Ltd, which took over the building last April.

It is now home to 33 tenants, including 17 new businesses which were established with the co-operative's support, provides 110 jobs and services the community in a myriad of ways – with exercise classes, two nurseries, academic and vocational courses, and a food bank which has helped over 2,000 adults and children.

At its AGM on July 20, at which its annual accounts were presented to members and the general public, Charles Burrell Centre manager Mark Snowdon said its achievements had come from 'teamwork and drive'.

'Two years ago, I walked around this site with Terry Jermy. It was an empty shell of our old high school quietly gathering dust.

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'I knew back then there was huge potential to create something that Thetford has never had before: a community centre, a business centre, a youth centre, and a place of education all rolled into one; a place that would bring families together and strengthen community integration in Thetford, all of which are important factors for our town and its future generations,' he said.

The centre now counts West Suffolk College, Thetford Community Association, Norfolk Community Healthcare and the UK's largest Portuguese newspaper among its tenants.

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Run as a non-profit organisation, it has received grants from the Shadwell Estate, Cynthia Della Hoy's Croxton Charity, Thetford Town Council and Pearsons.

Mr Snowdon said: 'Our feet are kept firmly on the ground when considering the support we have received and the maintenance issues that loom largely in the background, such as a complete replacement of the roof in the former science block.

'But one thing that is clear is our social impact on the town. Over one hundred jobs have been created or ring fenced to the centre and its tenants and over four hundred adults have completed courses in higher education here since the centre opened – not to mention the countless number of people that attend classes and activities here each week.'

The AGM heard from three tenants who have been able to expand their businesses thanks to the centre – Sam Hoffman of Thundercats Cheerleaders, Michelle Gray from Thetford Toy Library, and Kim Ritchie of Centre Stage School of Dance.

With the centre now at 90pc occupancy, Mr Snowdon said the organisation's focus could shift to improving empty spaces and on finding funds for necessary building repairs.

Potential plans for the centre's future were also discussed including the recruitment of a new volunteer co-ordinator, to cope with the increasing number of volunteers wishing to support the centre. So far over 90 people have volunteered for the centre in some capacity.

For more information, contact Mr Snowdon on 01842 779867.

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