Community hub on site of former SAFC ground is turning 60

Thompson Park Community Centre 60th anniversary. 
Front from left: chairman Jan Pringle and committee member Sarah Ogleby
Thompson Park Community Centre 60th anniversary. Front from left: chairman Jan Pringle and committee member Sarah Ogleby
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A community centre on the site of a former SAFC ground is turning 60.

In its six decades, Thompson Park Community Centre in Monkwearmouth has welcomed everyone from toddler footballers to pensioner bingo-players through its doors.

A dance group from the early years of the centre

A dance group from the early years of the centre

The community clubbed together to build the centre off Newbold Avenue back in 1956 on the site of the Black Cats’ sixth ground, which the team used from 1886-1898.

Today it’s still at the heart of that community, and is a meeting place for a host of groups, from football fans who use the bar before matches to self defence and martial arts groups, mum and toddler groups and Little Dribbler footballers who use the site’s grounds.

In June the centre, which was founded by Nan Freeman, Arthur Cuddeford and Jack Duery, whose descendants still use the centre, will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a family fun day.

“It’s a really well used centre and is in use by various groups every day, groups who span all ages,” said chairman Jan Pringle who’s been a member for 50 years. “The idea for the centre actually started in 1946. The founders went to the nearby Grange Park School and held coffee mornings and whist sessions to raise the money to build the centre.

Founding members during planning work for the centre. From left, Arthur Seppit and Jack Duery

Founding members during planning work for the centre. From left, Arthur Seppit and Jack Duery

“We’re really proud of the community spirit behind the centre, everyone mucked in and tradespeople gave their time for free to build it.”

Treasurer Kath Hodgson said: “This community centre is unique in the city because it’s the only one that’s independent and self-sufficient. Other community centres will have window and roof repairs paid for by the council. Although we do get some funding from the Community Chest fund, we’ve paid our own way from the beginning.”

One of the biggest fundraisers for the centre is its annual pantomime, performed on its large stage with costumes hand-made by members, which draws in families from around Monkwearmouth, Southwick and Fulwell.

Jan added: “A lot of our members came here as children and have continued to come here. Because of our history, and the fact we’re still here when a lot of community centres have fallen by the wayside, we take a lot of pride in the centre. The members take it upon themselves to help out and do repairs. Most have full time jobs, so this is all done in our spare time.”

A yesteryear pantomime at the centre

A yesteryear pantomime at the centre

“But it is a struggle sometimes, it would be nice to have more funding. I wish the government and council would recognise how important these centres are to the community.”

Members hope the fun day, which will be held from noon to 2pm on June 18, will attract more people through the doors.

Jan said: “A lot of people still don’t know we’re here. Even people in the surrounding streets. In one way it’s an advantage being tucked out of the way because we get no trouble, but it also means people miss us because we’re a little off the beaten track.

“But we’re here for the community, we want as many people as possible to come along, and then for their children to come too.”

Thompson Park Community Centre 60th anniversary
Chair Jan Pringle

Thompson Park Community Centre 60th anniversary Chair Jan Pringle

Thompson Park Community Centre 60th anniversary. 
Chair Jan Pringle

Thompson Park Community Centre 60th anniversary. Chair Jan Pringle

Thompson Park Community Centre 60th anniversary Chair Jan Pringle

Thompson Park Community Centre 60th anniversary Chair Jan Pringle