Users of a North Tyneside community centre are looking forward to a brighter future after winning a four-figure donation from Newcastle Building Society’s Building Improvement Grants (BIGs) scheme.

The East End Youth and Community Centre on George Street in North Shields is using the £3,560 grant to make much-needed repairs to its dance studio, including redecorating the interior and replacing the mirrors in which users can see themselves perform.

It is also reopening two long-blocked-up windows in the centre’s café to help provide a more welcoming environment for its users.

The centre’s management committee is hoping that the improvements will encourage more local people to come along and use it for more of their own events.

Originally built in the early 1960s and given to the community in 1964, the volunteer-run East End Youth and Community Centre was originally a Boys Club and existed primarily to support and train boys in football, boxing and other physical sports.

Over the years, it evolved into an all-encompassing youth and community centre and is now used for a range of different activities, including kick boxing, stilt walking and Little Kickers junior football classes.

It also acts as headquarters for the Beavers, Cubs and Scouts belonging to the 5th Tynemouth Scout Group, which meet every Friday evening, and receives around 100 visitors every day.

James Johnson, trustee at The East End Youth and Community Centre, says: “The dance studio is used for classes run by the Abby’s Theatre and Dance Group, as well as by our Zumba groups, and while it’s very popular, it was really beginning to show its age, especially after one of the mirrors was damaged accidentally.

“The bricked-up windows are in one of our main public areas and make it rather gloomy, and we’ve been keen to let in more light for a long time.

“There’s no way we’d have been able to afford to get this work done without the Society’s help and we’ll hopefully see more local people choosing the centre as the venue for their functions as a result of the improvements we’ve made.”

After launching its Building Improvement Grants (BIGs) scheme last year by making an initial £50,000 available to fund capital projects within community buildings across the North East and Cumbria, the Society doubled the value of grants available to help charities, community groups and good causes during 2019 to £100,000.

In addition to this, the Society’s Community Fund also enables members to nominate charities and community groups in or around its branch network for smaller grants of up to £3,000.

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £1.8m in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The most recent application period saw 40 projects that had been nominated by Society customers, receiving a total of £94,982 between them.

Stephen Burt, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s North Shields branch, adds: “Supporting and enhancing our communities is central to what we do, and we maintain strong, active links to lots of community groups and charities right across our region.

“The East End Youth and Community Centre is a longstanding and invaluable part of our area and we’re very happy to be able to support their plans to improve the facilities it can offer to local people.”

Full details of the Building Improvement Grants scheme and eligibility criteria are available on the website, while nominations can be made by Society customers in any of its branches or via the website.

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation is operated in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.