Town's indoor activity centre hailed as evidence of 'strength of communities'

Trustees Angie Johnson (left) and Christina and Colin Costello (right) pictured with High Sherif Mic

Trustees Angie Johnson (left) and Christina and Colin Costello (right) pictured with High Sherif Michael Gurney at Stalham Poppy Centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

A town's efforts to build itself an indoor activity centre have been hailed as evidence of the "strength of communities" in Norfolk.

Micheal Gurney, the county's High Sheriff, was speaking at the Poppy Centre, at the Recreation Ground in Stalham, on Tuesday (January 18) - more than 17 years after a charity was founded to build the hub itself.

The building includes a main hall for indoor sports, a stage and seating for 150 people, a gym and a conference room on the first floor, and lift access.

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

"This centre is all about building up the strength of community," Mr Gurney said. "And that only happens because you have volunteers who give up their time to help others."

Among the volunteers were the Costellos, Christine and Colin, and Angie Johnson, who set up the Poppy Centre Trust on November 11, 2004.

Christina and Colin Costello and Angie Johnson, trustees of the Stalham Poppy Centre. Picture: Danie

Christina and Colin Costello and Angie Johnson, trustees of the Stalham Poppy Centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Back then the site was dilapidated. Scouts were using a prefab dating from 1972 while the football club was based in a cabin.

In 2005, North Norfolk District Council approved the plans for the centre but the charity struggled to get funding.

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Mrs Costello says: "As we had enough money to do something, we decided to do a bit, so the steel frame was put up in 2008."

Three years later, after securing more funds, the first bricks were laid.

In 2012, the trust opened a charity shop on the High Street which in nine years raised more than £500,000.

"All the volunteers worked tirelessly," Mrs Costello says.

The local community who have been invovled with Stalham Poppy Centre gathered to meet the High Sheri

The local community who have been invovled with Stalham Poppy Centre gathered to meet the High Sherif Michael Gurney. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

The centre had a soft opening in 2018 but like most other venues closed in early 2020.

Last year, on Armistice Day, the management of the venue was handed over to the Stalham and Brunstead Recreation Ground Charity, which is part of Stalham Town Council.

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Mr Costello says: "It was a huge project. We were complete novices at the start so we've had to learn. We had so many good contractors that helped us.

"Every thought has gone into it," he adds.

Helen Munford who volunteers at the gym at Stalham Poppy Centre on Recreation Road. Picture: Daniell

Helen Munford who volunteers at the gym at Stalham Poppy Centre on Recreation Road. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Helen Munford, chair of Stalham Community Gym, said: "The building is wonderful for us and the people who come here love it.

"It's for all shapes and sizes, all abilities."

Kevin Bayes, chairman of Stalham Town Council, said: "The building itself is amazing but people need to come and use it.

"The only thing we are missing now is people."

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden

Stalham Poppy Centre off of Recreation Road in Stalham. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden

Christina and Colin Costello and Angie Johnson, trustees of the Stalham Poppy Centre. Picture: Danie

Christina and Colin Costello and Angie Johnson, trustees of the Stalham Poppy Centre. Picture: Danielle Booden - Credit: Danielle Booden