Boost for Doncaster Community Centre as it finally gets a lease, 20 years after opening

Ivanhoe Centre trustees Sue Martin and Barbara Moore, pictured in the cafe. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Ivanhoe Centre MC 1
Ivanhoe Centre trustees Sue Martin and Barbara Moore, pictured in the cafe. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Ivanhoe Centre MC 1
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It has taken 20 years - but the volunteers who run one of Doncaster's biggest community centres finally have a lease.

When it was first opened, The Ivanhoe Centre in Conisbrough was put in the hands of a team of enthusiastic members of the local community - but without a concrete legal agreement for their use of the building.

But now, the committee which runs the site have finally got a legal agreement attaching them to the site on Garden's Lane - and they reckon it could be the key to a brighter future.

The agreement came through in December, which gives the Conisbrough Community Association a 25 year lease on the building for a peppercorn rent.

Now the trustees are looking to expand the activities that are run from the site, and to bring in younger people to get involved.

The centre was first built in 1997, on land former occupied by tennis courts and owned by the the miners welfare organisation, CISWO. A previous centre, a wooden building, had been on fields next to the current site, which was often used by nurses for clinics for families.

The Ivanhoe Centre was funded by European Union cash, and also by residents putting money into an appeal to 'buy a brick' at the centre.

Current chairman Carol Fleming moved into her post two years ago, and is part of a much changed board of five people.

She said: "We finally got the lease in December, from the solicitor. It has taken 20 years. But what that means is that we can now apply for bigger grants from funding organisations. Previously, the lack of a legal lease has prevented us from attracting some types of funding.

"The main thing is that there are a lot of structural things that we need to do. We have windows that need replacing, and guttering that needs looking at. There are bits and bobs that we can do, but we would also really like a new kitchen.

"We've also been told that the boiler is not big enough to heat the building, and to save energy we'd like to be more green."

She said the trustees and others in the community had been constantly fundraising.

Among the sources of income over the last couple of years has been what they have called their 'Bargain Corner' - a room of donated items which people can purchase in exchange for a cash donation of the buyer's choice - as much or as little as they want. Some bigger items have individual price tags.

It was set up by trustee Barbara Moore, and now can raise £100 in a week for the centre.

The centre is home to dozens of groups. They range from mums and tots groups to dance fitness groups for over 50s. There are film groups and an arts and crafts group, and a youth club.

As well as that there are private parties for birthdays, and concerts.

But Carole believes there is a need to bring in younger people.

She said at present most of those involved with running and using the centre were aged 70 or over.

"They are really loyal, but we will need younger people to get involved. In the past, some people said we looked like a nursing home, but we've redone the decoration since then.

"We are trying to do that, and we are getting younger people coming in, and we're getting child minders coming in and using the cafe. We've also got younger people coming in with the Slimming World group. It is a slow process."

Community support

Community support has been key to keeping the Ivanhoe Centre going.

Volunteers open and close the building each day - and local businesses have gone out of their way to help.

An example of the help that the centre has received came when concerns were raised about plants and bushes outside the building being used to dump drugs paraphernalia.

After the community become aware of the issues, residents rallied.

An army of workers provided their services for free to remove the plants and instead put down block paving there they had been. They were tea, a free lunch and bacon butties provided by the trust as they carried out the work.