DANNY Boyle’s Olympic spectacular was not the weekend’s only much-awaited opening ceremony.
Easington Social Welfare Club has celebrated the completion of a project almost as long in the planning as the Olympic Games themselves.
Over six years of work and thousands of pounds of backing has given the East Durham club a new roof, toilets and disabled access, which bosses hope has secured its long-term future.
It also included a lift, which was one of the last wishes of welfare secretary Cyril Dunn, who died last year.
A former mechanic at Easignton pit, Cyril was the “driving force” behind the campaign to bring the community venue back into use.
He appeared on Channel 4’s hit Secret Millionaire show when marketing tycoon Carl Hopkins went undercover before handing over £12,000 to help revamp the former miners’ hall.
Mr Hokpins returned on Friday for the opning.
The revamp was helped by money from Durham County councillors David Boyes and Alan Barker’s neighbourhood budgets, National Lottery funding and other charitable trusts.
The club’s development manager, Geoff Price, said it would not have survived without the building undergoing such a large scale renovation.
“It has saved it from the bulldozers. Our business has already increased and now the building can pay its keep.”
He added: “We’ve been working on this for over six years. It started with the roof, then there was £90,000 of electrical rewiring to do.
“We’ve renovated the bar and the lounge, built an IT suite, renovated the toilets and installed a £12,000 cinema screen.
“The building can now host functions and even put on big shows on the new stage.”
However, the work is not finished, says Geoff.
“We need to find out we can best satisfy the needs of our community and start planning for that over the next five to 10 years.
“You need that sort of structure in place to secure funding in the future.”
Coun Barker said he was “absolutely delighted” with to see the improvements to the centre, while Coun Boyes said the redevelopment is great news for the community.
He said: “Everyone in Easington Colliery is pleased, it’s something that has been long overdue. The main things we had been missing was a lift and more car parking spaces.
“Now with the creation of an extended car park and a lift, it means a lot more people in Easington and from further afield can visit the hall.
“It’s going to be a real boost for the community and the local economy.
“We feel as though this is a major step forward and going by the feedback from the people who visited today – it’s all positive.”