Back from the brink: Youth centre and theatre plan for Connaughty Centre
The Connaughty Centre will become a youth hub once again after the new owners pledged to ensure the building us brought back into community use.
The Northants Telegraph revealed last week that the Connaughty Centre had been sold to The Living Faith Temple by government agency Homes England.
Local people were concerned that the building, which was constructed in 1967 by the people of Corby, would not be able to be accessed by the wider community.
They were also worried that the building had not been sold on the open market.
But this week, church leaders announced that they were spending hundreds of thousands on converting the building into a community facility to include a youth centre, church, cafe, contact centre, nursery, marriage counselling service and eventually a 650-seat theatre.
They revealed that they have already spent £190,000 on the building in order to bring it back up to scratch.
Almost every window in the building was smashed when the Living Faith Temple took ownership in April and vandals were regularly targeting the building.
Pastor David Midzi said his church is committed to keeping alive the vision of Nellie Connaughty - after whom the building is named.
He said: “We read about the community of Corby coming together to build this place and that’s what we want to do again: resurrect it with the same vision.”
“When we came in there were young people in large groups who were coming in and trashing the place.
“We spoke to them and asked them why they were trashing their own heritage.
“But they were bored and didn’t have anything else to do.
“Our vision is that this building will be dedicated to helping the youth of Corby.
“We hope that those young people will be back here when it’s finished.”
The Connaughty Centre was previously run by Northamptonshire County Council but it closed in 2014 when the authority said it could no longer afford to repair the dilapidated building.
David first arrived in Corby from Leicester when a friend who lived in the town was bereaved. He was encouraged to set up a church here and did so, in the Church of the Epiphany, in 2008.
Services quickly moved to the Baptist Church in Rowlett Road and now the congregation has outgrown that building so the group decided to buy the Connaughty Centre. It was not an easy process as they were led to believe the building was owned by Northamptonshire County Council.
There are eleven nationalities represented in the congregation.
David said that the new cafe in the building will be open daily to local people and the large sports hall will be available for community groups to use.
“We have lots of highly qualified people in the church including doctors and accountants who are looking to give back to the community.
“We’ll have a 0-5 nursery which will be affordable for local people and three rooms that can be used as a contact centre for parents to see their children who they don’t live with.”
The huge McDiarmid Hall at the rear of the centre will eventually be refurbished to become a 650-seat theatre which will be used as Living Faith’s church as well as a community theatre facility.
It is also hoped there will be a new foodbank housed in the centre.
David added: “It’s costing the church a lot of money but we will be worth it when we see the lives that this place could change.
“Kids can come here and learn different musical instruments and take part in all kinds of activities. It’s about getting kids off the street and giving them something to look forward to. We want to raise a great community here in Corby.”
It is hoped that the front part of the building will be open by March. The theatre will be phase two of the project to be commenced at a later date.