Doors to re-open at South Shields community centre thanks to new team of volunteers

St Simons Community Centre re-opens. Julie Stephenson with, from left, Orlaith Davis, 2, Brennan Davis, 4 months and Louis Eckert, 9 months
St Simons Community Centre re-opens. Julie Stephenson with, from left, Orlaith Davis, 2, Brennan Davis, 4 months and Louis Eckert, 9 months

A community centre which was forced to close its doors by a cash crisis is set to re-open after three years - with a new team of volunteers at the helm.

St Simon’s Community Project in Wenlock Road, South Shields, opened in 1973 but closed in 2016 because it had no cash to carry out necessary repairs to the building.

St Simons Community Centre cafe volunteers Janette Watson and Diane Stephenson

St Simons Community Centre cafe volunteers Janette Watson and Diane Stephenson

Now - thanks to new owner Sharna Rose, who with Sophie Davis runs All Stars Productions - the community centre is being given a new lease of life.

The pair took over the building, carried out repairs and run their stage school from the venue.

With a lot of space unused, Julie Stephenson, from South Tyneside Lifestyle Choices CIC, has joined forces with Sharna and Sophie to fully utilise the building.

Together with a team of volunteers, Julie is bringing back activities once popular with residents on the estate as well as introducing new sessions.

We have had some brilliant support from the community as well as Asda and the New Ship and welcome any ideas people have.

Julie Stephenson

A coffee shop will also be open on a daily basis.

Julie said: “The building is privately owned by Sharna and Sophie who use the centre for their stage school, but they have a lot of unused space.

“After talking with them, we thought it would be great to open the centre back up to the community.”

She added: “We will be having a flower arranging course, fitness classes, parent and toddler groups, craft classes, first aid courses with more things to come.”

From left Shopie Davis with son Brennan Davis, 4 months and Sharna Rose with Orlaith Davis, 2

From left Shopie Davis with son Brennan Davis, 4 months and Sharna Rose with Orlaith Davis, 2

Sharna said: “There are two sides to our business, at the studio we specialise as a stage school. Primarily providing drama, dance, acro, and singing classes and then as a fitness studio offering group training and personal training.

“We started out by hiring a room at the Customs House and started looking for our own building a few years ago. A dad of one of our girls sent us the link to Simonside community project and I knew straight away that it had so much potential.

“It was a lot bigger than we’d been looking for and needed a huge amount of work.

“Looking back, I must have been mad but I just had a gut feeling that it was meant for us and that we could really build it back up to not only be a second home for our stars but a prominent part of the community again too.”

The centre will be open from 9am until 2pm Monday to Friday, from Monday March 25.