50th Anniversary stories

With photos by Tom Alexander

In celebration of our 50th anniversary, we have been asking you to share with us any special moments or memories you have of the community centre. We asked the very talented Tom Alexander to take some portraits of individuals that help make the centre the wonderful place that it is.

One of the images is of Dennison Joseph (pictured) who runs Tai Chi classes at the community centre and has been coming here since the 1970s. You can take a look at the portraits and stories, as they are now on display in room 7.

For now you can have a read of some of these stories here:

Murilo Leite D’Imperio, Owner of Neck of the Woods Cafe

“For me, St Werburghs Community Centre has kind of changed my life. It helped me start my own business, which has now been running coming up for 5 years. My partner’s office is also based here so it’s kind of a really huge part of my life and without it I don’t know what I would be doing.

I really love when there is a large-scale event at the Centre. Things like the Cabaret Fundraiser Evening, Christmas Market and other ones like Buddah fields. It really changes how the building feels and these are the times that really stick out to me in my memory.”

Renny Williams, Centre Caretaker

“I first came here in 1974. Over the years, there were lots of people using the centre. Most Saturday nights there would be a party here. Lots of black people having weddings or parties here. I had my wedding reception here in August 1975.It was one massive wedding, lots of people.

Every Wednesday and Sunday people would come for the Dominoes Club, practising plus with some beer and ting. People would come down from Birmingham and Manchester to play.

At one point this place was so run down, they were thinking about knocking it all down. But they modernised it instead like.

Back then you could get a house here (in St Werburghs) for £500. I got mine for that. You could get a gallon, not a litre, a gallon of petrol for 25p.”

Kazuko Isoyama, Community Member

“I’ve been coming to the Centre for over ten years. We used to come here for our Buddhist Group meetings, to study for our and exams and meet up. These were here for over 15 years I think. Over the years the place has changed and I like the new seating especially the outdoor area. I now regularly go to Tai Chi on Fridays.”

Dennison Joseph, Tai Chi Leader

“I’ve been attending the centre on and off for 40 to 50 years. Back then, this place was a real hub for the Caribbean community. There was the Dominoes Club but we also used to have a Blues session here. In fact in my mid 20’s I used to rehearse here with my band. There was no place quite like it, it was in the days before the Malcom X Centre was a thing.

Over 10 years ago, Goska (Centre Manager) asked me if I would be interested in running a Tai Chi class for the over 50’s. Some of the people from 10 years ago still come along. Running this class has been a big highlight for me.”

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