1950s Welfare Hall Official Opening

1950s Welfare Hall Official Opening


So we’re at the opening of our lovely welfare hall here at Beamish it’s a replica of the hall that still exists in Coundon which was open in 1957 so we’re dead excited as it’s the first building in our 1950s Town to open we’ve had such a wonderful reception from the people who have come today from Coundon its been a real party atmosphere and a great way to open the building and to start the 1950s Town We had the big parade – a carnival parade it was inspired by an archive photograph that we found which had a float with ‘God bless the old, god bless the new’ so we got some of our oldest things out of the collections and had a big float and we had a big parade with the cubs, the scouts, WI, the committee from Coundon were here the youth club were here as well, lots of people who were participating in the parade and then the official opening and drawing of the curtains on the sign It feels absolutely amazing to see this hall open I think there are so many people at Beamish and external contractors who come together who all work to make these things happen, it’s such a massive team effort so many people have worked on this building, inside the museum and out and I think it’s a real achievement and moment for everyone who has been involved we always knew that we wanted a large indoor space as part of Remaking Beamish somewhere in particular with the work we do with groups to be able to come and use the hall and this hall was absolutely perfect for our needs it opened in 1957, so it’s a late 1950s building, architecturally its really interesting there’s those absolutely beautiful glulam arches inside it’s very reminiscent for a lot of people of halls that they will have been in  and crucially for us as well it continues the mining story through the museum so this hall people talk about the contribution that the miners made to making this hall open so it enables us to do that as well and its an absolutely beautiful space really I feel incredibly lucky that we’ve got this at the museum and I can’t wait to use it in lots of different ways it brings a building to life doesn’t it when you work with people and they can tell you their stories a community centre is just that isn’t it… it’s all about people, it’s all about community and the community at Leeholme and Coundon have been absolutely fantastic to work with they have helped make this come alive and I look forward to visitors continuing to do so it has been around 4 years that I’ve worked on this project since they announced it through to the opening today and I think there’s so many moments, so many people that we’ve met there’s been quite a few emotional moments like taking people into the hall for the first time speaking to people who had their wedding reception here people who’s family worked down Leasingthorne pit the people who look after the Leasingthorne banner I think there’s so many people that we’ve met who have helped us with this project that it would really be hard to pick out a particular moment but what I would say is that it’s been emotional today to see the hall open and to see all the people who came to take part in that parade and that was quite emotional really particularly when the youth club read out the poem all about the history of the local area (laugh) we’ve got a hard act to follow! I feel amazing, it’s all come to the end now but it’s been an absolutely fantastic day a marvellous send off, the procession was amazing – so many people here the support was fantastic! it’s certainly stowed a lot of emotion, a lot of conversations have been going on lots of old stories coming out and that is lovely to hear I still think its bizarre having two Leasingthorne welfare halls but I just think that it’s so special that it has been replicated here So we’re trying to recreate that same sort of community spirit and that same buzz which it would have had in the 50s so there’ll be a different daily activity, and that will change seasonally  but there’s all sorts from taking part in amateur dramatics to craft clubs the NHS clinic is inside, we’ve got youth club games so there’s so much, everyday you’ll come in and find something different So the hall is the first building in our new 1950s Town we’ll have lots of people’s houses that you can see we’ve got a terrace which will have another fish and chip shop and a hairdressers so you can come and get your hair done! and also a house that is based on the artist, Norman Cornish some might remember the Nominate Your House competition and the house from Red House estate in Sunderland that won then there’s a Police House, a recreation ground, a cinema so there’ll be loads of stuff for people to do when they come to the 50s Town The Town isn’t the only part of the project, we’re doing some really exciting work in our Georgian area to expand that time period so if you’ve been recently you will have seen there’s a development site there which is going to be a Coaching Inn and even more exciting, you’ll be able to stay in it overnight so we’re working on that at the minute just to see what level of creature comforts people might like to have and also expanding the industrial Georgian tale that we tell so, we’re looking at a candle house and a pottery as well so it will be a really expanded visit that you can have in the Georgian area and then over towards the Farm we’re building Spain’s Field Farm which has been brought back to the museum brick by brick from Weardale and rebuilt here onsite, so that will open towards the end of the project as well I should also mention that in the 1950s Town, the aged miners’ homes they will be a purpose built building for our work for those living with dementia at the minute that work is based up at home farm but the aged miners’ homes which will be set in the 50s will give us the real opportunity to expand that work and making it a much better facility for those who visit We’ve had a lot of help from the National Lottery Heritage Fund which has been great and we couldn’t have done it without them but lots of other supporters as well, so the Banks Community Foundation have supported this and also people like Formica who have supplied our lovely units in the kitchen and also the table tops so its really been a big effort to bring this hall together and everyone has contributed something which has helped it bring it to life!

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