Wearsiders are invited to step back in time as a community group celebrates the 50th anniversary of their Fulwell home with a nostalgic photographic display.
Redby Community Association was launched in January 1947, after former air raid wardens suggested it would be nice to continue the “good community work” carried out during the war.
Redby School was chosen as the group’s first base, with hundreds of Fulwell residents flocking to choir practices, dance sessions and sewing lessons each week.
But, such was the association’s success, it soon outgrew the school. By the 1950s a building fund had been launched and, on May 6, 1965, a new home in Fulwell Road opened.
“Generations of Fulwell families have passed through the doors of Redby Community Centre,” said secretary Norma McHenry.
“It’s always been very popular, and I hope it’ll be here for another 50 years. It is right at the heart of our community, and around 600 people visit each week.”
The roots of Redby CA date to the dark days of the Second World War, when Hitler’s Luftwaffe repeatedly targeted Sunderland – making several raids on Fulwell.
A close-knit community spirit flourished in the face of danger, helped by the efforts of wartime wardens – who organised whist drives, dances and get-togethers.
“In 1946, the year after peace was declared, the wardens applied to use Redby School for a children’s party – and that was the start of things,” said Norma.
“Once the party was arranged, it was decided to form a community association to carry on the work done by wardens in getting neighbours together during the war.”
The group quickly grew from strength to strength. More the 450 people were members by 1950, and the addition of an Over 60s club in 1951 boosted numbers further.
“It eventually became apparent that the CA needed its own base, and a building fund was launched in 1952. This had raised over £2,000 by 1964,” said Norma.
Mr K.M. Reinold Esq – general secretary of the National Federation of Community Associations – was invited to officially open the new centre on May 6, 1965. Within weeks over 100 new members had enrolled, two local Townswomen’s Guilds affiliated with the base, new classes were offered and weekly attendances doubled.
By the time the group celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1972, it boasted members aged from nought to 90 – and a lengthy waiting list for playgroup places.
“Today the centre is just as popular as it has always been,” said Norma. “We have about 15 groups, including karate, dancing and a sewing circle.
“The main change has been the age of members. In the early days they were older, but now we have breakfast and after-school clubs because more mothers work.
“We are a friendly bunch, whatever class you join, and offer a warm welcome to everyone.”
l A photographic exhibition is now on show at the centre. Contact 548 4515 for details.