A COMMUNITY centre which was awarded a coveted national honour for its work in Blyth rolled out the red carpet for the Duchess of Northumberland last week.
The Duchess visited the Buffalo Centre last Wednesday to open a former stable block to the rear of the building, which has been refurbished as part of a £50,000 project to create meeting and exhibition space with kitchen facilities.
Committee members who run the centre raised the money to transform the stables which formed part of the former Buffalo public house, a popular coaching inn.
During her visit, the Duchess was shown a kickboxing display, an art exhibition and a children’s dance and exercise class.
She was given a tour the two-storey community centre before cutting the ribbon to officially open the revamped stable block.
The area is currently being used by the Probation Service working with young offenders, as an evening youth centre and for a variety of meetings and activities.
Eileen Cartie, centre manager, said: “What really impressed me, was that she spent time talking to the children and the people who use the centre. She was lovely.
“She was very approachable and really interested in the children’s work.
“She does marshall arts herself and we put on a display which she thoroughly enjoyed.
“The whole event was well planned and well received by the people who come into the centre.”
Last year, the community centre won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.
The award, equivalent to an MBE, recognises the outstanding contribution to community life made by the Cowpen Quay Community Association (CQCA), which runs the Regent Street centre, since it was set up over 30 years ago to offer social and educational activities to local residents.
In 2010 the CQCA narrowly missed out on winning £50,000 in lottery funding in the ITV People’s Millions competition for the stables refurbishment project and set about raising the cash themselves.
Coun Vince Coils, of the Croft ward, also gave their fundraising efforts a major boost when he donated £22,000 from his members’ budget.
Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell, a trustee of the centre, said: “I was delighted the Duchess came along. It was nice to see her in Blyth.
“The outer buildings have always been there. It was just a place to put rubbish really.
“It was absolutely marvellous to see the work they had done.
“It is a very attractive community centre for the area.
“The centre is a facility that Cowpen Quay never had and it has been well used.
“It always made a difference in the past. The kids had nowhere to go.
“It took a lot of kids in the area of the street.”