1989 – Formation of a Community Association
The Isabella Community Association was formed in 1989 as a response to a lack of community facilities in the Isabella ward of Blyth, a former mining community. The Association is a registered charity and its Management Committee is made up of local residents. The Community Association were operating from a community flat owned by Blyth Valley Borough Council and a Pavillion on the nearby playing fields. Activities and services provided included social evenings for older residents, a youth project and play schemes for young people.
1999 – Feasibility
Local forums and networks started mapping need, opportunities and challenges in the Isabella, Plessey and Croft wards. Funding from a variety of sources enabled the Community Centre to be conceived and eventually built The Isabella Community Association’s Management Committee were to be responsible for managing and developing this new facility alongside a Steering Group and a Centre Development Manager. The Centre was planned to have a range of facilities, such as an ITC Computer Suite, kitchen, cafe area, crèche facility, youth training room, skills workshop, interview/meeting rooms and main hall function room.
Blyth Valley Community Matters came on board as a partner, to assist the Isabella Community Association’s Management Committee in developing the Community Centre construction and operational management structure.
November 2003 – Official Centre Opening, Heritage Gates and Railings
A successful funding application was made to the National Heritage Lottery; the Association was awarded £49,000 to design and erect gates and railings around the new Isabella Training Resource Community Centre. The design of the railings was to capture the history of the area as well as looking to the future. Artist William Pym was commissioned to design and produce the decorative gates and railings working, he worked alongside staff at Community Matters, the Isabella Committee, Malvins House Residential Care home, St Andrews First School and the Isabella Youth Project. They were instrumental in informing the artwork of the commissioned piece.
The circles in the railings depict the constant circle of life as well as depicting the pit wheel of the industrial coal mining past linked to this area. With small phrases and comments made by local people the circles capture what life was and is like living in the Isabella.
Isabella Colliery Intricate design work In the pedestrian gates the use of wild flowers was used to link to the past before the Coal Mining, when the area was a mass of fields the gates also link to the area known to locals as the “Bella Heap” where wild flowers are being re-introduced, and so the circle of life is carried on.
The railings and gateways were erected and officially opened in November 2003 along with the official opening of the Isabella Centre.
Pit Wheel inside the Isabella Centre: the artwork carried out by the children of St Andrews First School for the project is displayed along with an information board giving the history and hopes for the future of the Isabella Community Association.
2007 – 2013
The Centre continued to evolve. Many community groups came and went. Many are still here.
We have held an annual Christmas Fayre, tea dances, line dances, movie nights – in association with our partners at Doorstep Pictures – demonstrations, public meetings, seminars and training events – with our public sector partners – took part in a prestigious three-year regional health award scheme where we won Gold Status, many youth club educational and recreational visits, summer youth schemes, welcomed the Princess Louise Nursery to our Centre and expanded the creche facilities for them, converted an underused skills workshop into a Day Care centre and multi-use function room for Age UK, trained karate champions, hosted UKOnline days, annual 12 hour crafting days, craft fayres and the list goes on… In fact we recorded it all in a blog which we have left live online as an archive of our work and achievements. You can view it at this link: Isabella Centre Blog 2008-2014