There are moments in life when it all comes together, and these are moments to savour. Last Saturday was one, when the community in Brandon came together to celebrate the reopening of the Brandon Day Centre and to showcase their fantastic services and programmes.
The Brandon Day Centre was opened in 1998 after Brandon residents raised £250,000 to build the centre and then continued their fundraising efforts to keep it open. The Centre supports vulnerable people and also gives much needed respite to many who give their lives caring for loved ones. But in late 2016, the Centre was threatened with closure. Understandably, this was a huge shock to local people, many of who depended on the Brandon Day Centre to look after them, and to their carers who also depended on the Centre being able to offer respite care. Local residents started a petition to keep the Centre open, garnering over 2000 signatures, and enlisted the support of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Brandon Community Association, the press, social media, local councillors and me, as their local MP in their fight to keep the day centre open. We all worked hard as a team, with everyone doing their bit. All the campaigning paid off, and the future of the Centre was saved. Its doors remained open when Empada Care and Support took over the contract to run the Brandon Day Centre in January 2017. This was a huge victory for the community in Brandon and proves what can be achieved on a local level when everyone pulls together. Keeping the Centre open was the right thing to do, and the Brandon Day Centre is now better than ever. At the Open Day and official launch of the Centre, which was attended by over 150 people, Empada was able to show the changes that have been made to turn this valuable asset into a true community resource for all in Brandon to enjoy. In addition to the care services it offers, there are also meeting rooms for the public to book and a newly refurbished café designed to appeal to those young and old. There are many more projects planned for the future to make the Centre truly multi-generational and to offer something for everyone in Brandon. I’m so pleased that after all the hard work to keep it open, that we have a fantastic community centre. It was a great day, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Its a case study in how to do it.
Whether it be an unwanted proposed development, the potential loss of an existing local organisation, the lack of a community resource or something else altogether, the power of collective campaigning and organised effort cannot be overestimated. As we are now in the modern, digital age this kind of work is infinitely easier. Online petitions make the work of gathering signatures incredibly easy, as well. And being able to use the press has been a strategy that has stood the test of time, from the beginning of the printed word. Our local papers have the reach and gravitas that make them such a trusted source of news and also make them able to influence opinion.
If there is an issue in your community that you feel strongly about, remember the case of the Brandon Day Centre and how successfully the people of Brandon were when they organised themselves, and pulled together to save the Centre from closure. And if there’s an issue that you feel I can be of help with as your local MP, please do get in touch. I am always happy to help my West Suffolk constituents.