New board moves Liverpool Caribbean Centre closer to reopening
The once thriving Caribbean Centre will soon, once again, provide culture, learning and social events for the Caribbean and wider community
(Image: Patrick Graham/Liverpool ECHO)
The Merseyside Caribbean Centre in Liverpool 8 is on course to reopen its doors to the Caribbean and wider community after putting in place a new management committee.
The new committee is registered under the name Liverpool African Caribbean Grassroots Initiative (LACRI) and interim secretary Alan Crawford told the ECHO: “Our board goes by the name LACGI and are registered on Companies House, but the centre will always be called the Caribbean Centre”.
This is the name that the community is used to calling it after its opening in 1977.
Since 2013, following funding issues, the centre has been closed and efforts have been made over time to get it back open.
Alan said: “The Caribbean Centre is a place that many in the community have fond memories of. It’s the last community centre of its nature, the last asset people of African-Caribbean heritage in the city have and it is imperative that we save it”.
In an age of minimal funding and with services hit by austerity cuts across the country, this has led to a drawn-out process of securing the right conditions to reopen as a functioning community centre.
However, despite the lack of immediately available funding, Alan spoke about the true sense of community and how local businesses and tradespeople volunteered their time, materials and resources to make many of the repairs the building needed.
This saved thousands of pounds on building material and labour costs, which places the centre in a much greater position to open sooner, than if had had to raise those funds themselves.
Alan added: “We want to preserve the history and heritage of the place and ensure the centre is here for the next generation to come.”
The board consists of six members and efforts are underway to strengthen this and add to them, along with the existing volunteers and advisors they have.
Asked what are the most important issues that the centre faces in reopening, Alan said: “Our first priority is to secure a lease with the council and undertake (further) building repairs, for which we may need to raise significant sums of money. From there, our aim is to return the centre to its rightful place as a vibrant hub that promotes wellbeing, culture and community.”
At present the new board members are inviting the community to come and speak with them and Alan explained the purpose is to get “members of the community to come in for conversation with board members and volunteers and share their ideas and suggestions.
“We want our community to feel included, in the loop, consulted every step of the way and we want to tap into the skills, creativity and great ideas members of our community have”.
Some of the things the community have spoken of relate to them wanting the centre to be a place that promotes Caribbean food, music, culture and heritage, preserving and promoting this for the next generation.
Alan said they also want “a return of a games night and dances so local people can connect, have fun and make memories.
“People want a hub for wellbeing, physically and mentally – promoting nutritious food, staying active and staying mentally and emotionally well through education, volunteering opportunities, talking therapies, holistic therapies, yoga and meditation”.
At present the board are still in negotiations with Liverpool City Council.
Despite past attempts for developers to build on the land and build a new centre at a different site, they wish to remain where they are and have no plans to move.
They are the only interested party, they are aware of, in utilising the building and the site.
There are no paid staff at present, but about their plans for the future, Alan said: “We’re some way off being in a position to employ staff, but long term we hope to be able to employ a manager and staff. For now, the centre is being run by a group of passionate and committed volunteers”.
The board intends to create allotments on part of the site and grow produce and hire out raised beds to members of the community who wish to grow their own fruit and vegetables.
Barry Chang, known as the Bee Whisperer is also on the site and has a growing number of beehives which produce honey. This attracts visitors to the site to learn about beekeeping as he offers advice and training.
The Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram was a recent visitor to the site with schoolchildren learning about the work Barry does.