Allchurches Trust grant will help transform a tired church hall into a vibrant community hub

An Allchurches Trust grant will help to transform a church hall into a community hub that will help tackle loneliness and boost independence and health in Leeds.

Work is starting this July on a project to convert the existing Whitkirk St Mary’s Church Hall into a thriving community hub for the Leeds 15 (East Leeds) area.

A community survey in April 2017 revealed a definite social need for new facilities and services in the area for children and young people and older people, particularly local health and wellbeing support and activities to encourage arts and music, from painting to a community choir.

Fencing has now been erected around the existing church hall next to the Grade I listed church. An ambitious four-month building project will see the toilet block and kitchen being extended; while extensive internal refurbishment will create a parish office, a cafeteria area, bar redevelopment and improved storage.

New toilet facilities and access improvements will mean that the new facility is accessible to all, while a business-style meeting area is to be created with independent catering, access and toilets.

Existing users of the hall have all managed to find suitable locations to move to while work goes on, with the local pub now hosting the lunch club, rehearsals for the local drama group and providing parking for the congregation, as well as coffee after services.

Allchurches Trust Grants Officer, Peter Mojsa, said: “This new community hub will give people with disabilities, older people and those who may be feeling socially isolated, access to a range of activities that will increase independence and help them to live happier, healthier lives.

“Increased support for families, coupled with arts and group activities, will also help children and young people in the area get off to a better start in life. We’re proud to be able to provide a grant to a project that will see a range of partners come together to meet real social need and also play a crucial role in community cohesion.”

The Vicar of Whitkirk Church, Matthew Peat, said: “We at St Mary’s are proud that over the years our hall has been a place where all sorts of events have taken place. We hope that this will continue in the years to come and so we are investing in redeveloping our hall over the next few months so that future generations will benefit as so many have in the past.”

The project costing up to £450,000 has been funded mainly by the sale of church assets, but also through generous grants from a number of charities, including £4,500 from Allchurches Trust.