The Isabel Blackman Centre relaunches after an amazing community success story.
His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for East Sussex, Mr Andrew Blackman, officially re-opened the Isabel Blackman Centre in front of a happy crowd of supporters and members of the local community. Previously under the control of East Sussex County Council and closed in 2018 local people had thought that this vital Old Town asset had been lost when it appeared on the market for sale. Now, thanks to a tremendous fundraising effort, the building has been purchased by the community and has re-opened for everyone to use.
The new Isabel Blackman Centre has gone through an amazing transformation and is now a new leisure, health, and wellbeing centre. Keeping older people at its heart, but open to all, the bright and inviting space houses a wonderful café restaurant serving nutritious, home cooked food at affordable prices. Alongside this local art is on display and overall, it is a really wonderful place to socialise with friends old and new.
The centre, now run by the charity Age UK East Sussex, has been designed to suit a wider age group with support for everyone over 50. There are daily recreational classes from art and crafts to IT training, hobbies, music, dance and more. Anyone can take part, with some of the activities free and others charging a small cover. For those who want to use the café or classes more than once a month there is a Social Membership offered. For just £25 per year social members receive 10% of all food and drinks and £1 off activity class fees all year long, which offers a great saving.
A key part of the new centre is to create what the local community need and following several open days and public consultations the centre now has its own gym and exercise studio specifically for the over 50’s. The gym is fully kitted out with state of the art, accessible, equipment and offers a fantastic range of exercise and wellbeing classes. From Yoga, Qiong and Pilates, to specifically designed exercise sessions for all levels and abilities.
Age UK East Sussex Operations Director, Richard Scott-Clark said “The new IBC Gym and Studio is something really unique. When we talked to people, they said there were no facilities like this locally and they often found larger Gyms intimidating. Our new gym and studio are specifically for the over 50’s and we want to support people at all levels of fitness to have somewhere to go and enjoy exercise”.
At the Bourne end of the building the once ‘overlooked’ lobby area has been transformed into a Community Shop and Information point. Offering clothing, household items, gifts and in the summer holiday essentials. This is also the place for older people to gain much needed information, pick up NHS hearing aid batteries, and the team of local volunteers will be offering information support to tourists in the area too.
The centre can now provide high quality event and hire spaces with a fantastic catering menu, a really great place for special events. Recently hosting the Carers Association Christmas Fair and a weekly producers and creators fair which opens up the opportunity for local businesses, entrepreneurs, and farmers to sell their quality produce and products, and for residents to be able to buy local too.
We asked The Mayor of Hastings, Cllr James Bacon, for his thoughts, “The re-opening of the Isabel Blackman Centre is such an enormous success for older people and everyone in the Old Town. Its thanks to everyone’s passion that we have managed to save this important building. Now, as we need these facilities more than ever, its heart-warming to see the Isabel Blackman Centre come back to life once again and continue to support the Old Town and wider Hastings Communities.”