Over the last seven years, the team at YMCA Northumberland in Ashington has been undertaking a programme of improvements at its North View premises with a view to creating a multi-use community venue.
But while around 5,000 people now use the centre every year, the uninsulated high level barrelled roof that has been in place since the hall was built in the 1960s meant it was difficult and uneconomical to heat effectively, had poor acoustics and was often too cold to use during the winter months.
To remedy the problem, YMCA Northumberland has now used a £4,953 grant from the Banks Group, provided via its Banks Community Fund, to install a new insulated suspended ceiling, complete with a new lighting system.
And as well as being able to launch both a new monthly cinema club in the hall for both children and adults, and a new soft play service, YMCA Northumberland has also been able to use the enhanced environment to persuade the local Gladwins Ballet & Stage School to use its new stage as its permanent performance venue.
The YMCA has had a presence in Ashington for more than a century, and aims to help create communities to which all young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.
A wide range of programmes and facilities are offered to do this, including recording studios, a youth drop in service, an allotment project, volunteering opportunities and toddler groups, and it also provides a resource for the wider community by offering a lounge, cafe, meeting and training rooms.
The contract for the ceiling work was awarded to North East firm Kes Joinery and Property Services Ltd.
Rob Cox, chief executive at YMCA Northumberland, says: “We’ve put a lot of effort into improving our facilities over the last few years, and while the building is very well used, the problems caused by the original ceiling in the hall have been a stumbling block towards making it as attractive as we’d hoped.
“The installation of the new ceiling and lighting has made the hall an awful lot more comfortable and welcoming, and the feedback we’ve had from our users since the work was done has been really positive.
“We’ve now got a fantastic space that’s comfortable for everyone to be in for as long as they wish and at all times of the year, and the launch of the new community cinema club is just the first of many ways in which we’ll be trying to encourage even more people to make use of what we offer.
“It would have been a real uphill struggle to get this work done without the generous support we’ve had from The Banks Group, and we wouldn’t have been able to get it done anywhere near as quickly, so we’re very grateful for their support.”
Banks Mining currently employs over 200 people across the Brenkley Lane and Shotton surface mine sites near Cramlington, which jointly contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments and the local supply chain, and which have also enabled Banks to donate around £800,000 to projects in Northumberland over the last decade alone through the Banks Community Fund.
Jeannie Kielty, development relations coordinator at The Banks Group, says: “YMCA Northumberland is an invaluable resource that’s already the centre for a huge range of community activities in Ashington, and the improvements that we’ve supported to the fabric of the building will hopefully encourage even more people to make use of it.”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of both operational and proposed Banks Group projects. Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.