Centre plans for the future

Easington Colliery Social Welfare Hall, off Seaside Lane.
Easington Colliery Social Welfare Hall, off Seaside Lane.

BOSSES at a historic community centre made famous by the film Billy Elliot are hopeful that the credit crunch has not affected their redevelopment plans.

Trustees at the Easington Social Welfare Centre, in Easington Colliery, are hoping to transform the 76-year-old building in an £863,000 project.

Plans to bring the building into the 21st Century include creating a new entrance and the remodelling of internal rooms and some areas on the ground floor.

Bosses are keen to retain some of its historic character and the centre’s 1940s period dance hall – probably the most important in the former east Durham coalfield – will be preserved, as well as the associated stage and bar.

But there say there would be some re-working of floor levels and access to the dance hall.

Trustees have been working on the plans for the past few years and hope to submit funding applications to a number of sources later in the year.

These include the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and the Big Lottery Fund.

Centre manager Geoff Price remains confident funding can be obtained, despite the country’s current financial position.

He said: “As long as funding programmes are still open, we will have a chance to apply and possibly succeed. We are going to give it a good shot.

“You don’t really know how funders take to your plans until you get all your submissions in.

“It will be a long road but hopefully we will get some interest and some sufficient support.”

The plans would be the first major redevelopment of its kind at the popular building.

Mr Price added: “It may take nine months to a year to get all the funders on board.

“We would need to submit outline proposals and get the first round of funders interested.

“The actual building work would take four to five months.”

Mr Price said the building is well-used and the plans would be financially-sustainable.

The centre, in Seaside Lane, famously appeared in the Easington-based musical Billy Elliot, about a boy who turned his back on a life down the pit for a career in ballet.

The venue also featured in Channel 4 documentary The Secret Millionaire, in which tycoon Carl Hopkins handed out cash to community groups in the area.

For more information about the building project, select the link opposite..