'Buzzing to be back' - Life returns for 58 tenants ito community centre

Nik Chapman, chief executive at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Nik Chapman, chief executive at the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Life has returned to a town’s “vibrant” community centre, after all 58 tenants welcomed the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.  

From hairdressers and tattooists to an on-site college, café and community supermarket, the Charles Burrell Centre in Thetford is home to a wide range of businesses, support groups and clubs. 

And this week its tenants were “absolutely buzzing” to be back.  

Sarah Blackaller at Sarah's Scissors Hair Academy cutting George McCloud's hair, one of the communit

Sarah Blackaller at Sarah's Scissors Hair Academy cutting George McCloud's hair, one of the community groups and businesses who have returned to the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The centre’s new chief executive Nik Chapman, who took over during the third national lockdown, said he is proud of the businesses who have weathered the storm. 

“We have not lost any tenants over the Covid period,” he said.  

“In fact, we have a waiting list of people wanting to come in and take up rented space. We now have 58 different businesses, charities, clubs and start-ups. We have literally run out of space which is a great position to be in. 


You may also want to watch:


“Last year with government grants and the enthusiasm from our tenants to keep going meant none of them went to the wall, which is fantastic.  

“The sense of community from those who live locally to those who have businesses here has been so uplifting and encouraging.” 

Nicole Cotee, dance instructor at Centre Stage, back teaching the youngsters as the community groups

Nicole Cottee, dance instructor at Centre Stage, back teaching the youngsters as the community groups and businesses return to the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Most Read

On Monday, May 17, businesses including The Kuk Sool Won martial arts school, Thundercats studio, Centre Stage Dance School and West Suffolk College, welcomed back their adult students.  

Nicole Cottee, owner of Centre Stage Dance school, said “it’s a relief to be back” as they held their first boogie bounce class on Monday since the third national lockdown.

She said: “It’s so much better to see everyone in person and not over zoom. The kids returned in April but the adult classes started this week - it has been lovely.” 

Lily Wilson, coach at the Thundercats Studio, one of the community groups and businesses who have re

Lily Wilson, coach at the Thundercats Studio, one of the community groups and businesses who have returned to the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Lily Wilson is a coach at Thundercats studio - where they teach cheerleading, gymnastics and dance -she said it feels “amazing” as their 18s returned inside and they are set to prepare for their first competitions since 2019. 

“They have been really looking forward to getting back into the studio and moving their bodies again,” she said. 

“It feels like a new kind of normal but exciting. It was so quiet before April 12, so it’s nice to see lots of happy face again.” 

Five-year-old Sofia Rodrigues, practising high kicks in her Kuk Sool Wan class which is one of the c

Five-year-old Sofia Rodrigues, practising high kicks in her Kuk Sool Wan class which is one of the community groups and businesses who have returned to the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The Kuk Sool Won martial arts school, based at the centre, came runner up at the annual Thetford Business Awards in the leisure category on Monday, May 17.  

Owner Kris French said although his pupils are happy to be back but they are “chomping at the bit" to be able to "chuck each other around again”– as they are restricted to non-contact training until June 21. 

He said: “We have had a really great start and we are now up to more pupils today than we had even before Covid started. 

“A lot of our syllabus is self-defence and martial arts is a contact sport so we do miss that. But hopefully by June we will be firing on all cylinders."

Five-year-old Alexander Rowe practising punches in his Kuk Sool Wan class which is one of the commun

Five-year-old Alexander Rowe practising punches in his Kuk Sool Wan class which is one of the community groups and businesses who have returned to the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Five-year-old Sofia Rodrigues, practising high kicks in her Kuk Sool Wan class which is one of the c

Five-year-old Sofia Rodrigues, practising high kicks in her Kuk Sool Wan class which is one of the community groups and businesses who have returned to the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

But it’s not just sports clubs and groups who can now meet inside. The Charles Burrell Centre is also home to West Suffolk College’s adult learning centre – which saw the return of its adult students to its classrooms.

Ian Evans the learning centre manager said: “You do find with adult learning people do need that second level of support it’s not just about getting that qualification.  

“But they haven’t had the opportunity to do that. The opportunity for them to come back in again, it’s huge – for the Charles Burrell Centre and the community. "

Ian Evans, West Suffolk College learning centre manager in a classroom as community groups and busin

Ian Evans, West Suffolk College learning centre manager in a classroom as community groups and businesses make their return to the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Mr Chapman, who spent 35 years in the military, said in his first few months in the role he was been "blown away" by the community spirit.

As social isolation and mental health becomes ever more prevalent coming out of lockdown, he said it’s also important the centre continues to provide support services - including its internet pop-up cafe, The Burrell Shop, community fridge and groups to tackle loneliness.

Sam Stannard, left, owner, and Nadine Melhardo, manager, at their roleplay centre, Tiddlywinks, as c

Sam Stannard, left, owner, and Nadine Melhardo, manager, at their roleplay centre, Tiddlywinks, as community groups and businesses make their return at the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

“I am really positive," he added. "There is a buzz about the place, people want to come together again because that’s the human spirit."

The Engine Room Café currently remains closed but they are hoping to make a full return next month.  

Sam Stannard, left, owner, and Nadine Melhardo, manager, at their roleplay centre, Tiddlywinks, as c

Sam Stannard, left, owner, and Nadine Melhardo, manager, at their roleplay centre, Tiddlywinks, as community groups and businesses make their return at the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Nicole Cotee, dance instructor at Centre Stage, back teaching the youngsters as the community groups

Nicole Cottee, dance instructor at Centre Stage, back teaching the youngsters as the community groups and businesses return to the Charles Burrell Centre as restrictions are lifted. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter
Comments powered by Disqus