Huddersfield’s African-Caribbean community has made an impassioned plea to take back its “spiritual home.”
The Huddersfield African and West Indian Community Centre – the HUDAWI Centre for short – was run by the community, for the community.
The original building – the former Beaumont Street School – was given to Huddersfield Caribbean Association for a peppercorn rent.
Sadly, the building was destroyed by fire in 1993 and the current modern centre built in its place. The council, which owns the building, took over the management of it a few years later.
In recent years the building has been used for internal council training and meetings but now the council has deemed it surplus to requirements.
At a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Cabinet, members of the African-Caribbean community urged councillors to support them in taking on the centre via an asset transfer.
Natalie Pinnock-Hamilton MBE, (above) a founder member of the HUDAWI Centre, said: “This centre has been the spiritual home for the African-Caribbean community for many years and we want that to continue.
“We want this centre as a legacy for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We want to remember the Windrush generation who came and made Huddersfield what it is today.”
At the meeting the council agreed to dispose of four more buildings in a bid to save £240,000 a year in running costs.
The buildings to go are the HUDAWI Centre in Great Northern Street; The Dalton, Rawthorpe & Moldgreen Sport and Community Centre – better known as the DRAM Centre in Dalton; the former Paddock Youth Centre in Beech Street, Paddock; and the former Red House Museum in Gomersal, near Cleckheaton.
The council would prefer a Community Asset Transfer where the buildings are handed over to community groups but if that’s not possible they will be sold off.
There is likely to be community interest in all the buildings except Paddock Youth Centre which needs £1 million in repairs. The last remaining tenant, Huddersfield Gymnastics Club, is seeking alternative premises.
The African-Caribbean community has already started work towards making a bid for the HUDAWI Centre and Portia Roberts-Popham told councillors that more than 200 people attended an initial meeting.
She added: “As a follow-up to that meeting there were 41 people on a Zoom call who all want to get their hands mucky and move it forward.
“Access to the HUDAWI Centre as a community resource is vitally important. That building is not just a physical asset, it chimes with our emotional wellbeing and our confidence as a community and our vision for the future.
“We know we can make this work. We have a business plan and we want the support of the council. We have the skills, the resources and the people with passion to make this happen.”
Huddersfield businessman Johnny Flowers, who made the town his home in 1961 and set up Ashbrow Garage, told the meeting: “We have several people in the community who can run a business.
“I am absolutely sure we can make a success of that building so I would ask the council to help us get it back. We can run it right, run it well and make it successful.”
The Rev Paul Levene, of Huddersfield New Testament Church of God, told councillors the HUDAWI Centre was a hub and a focal point for the community and was needed now as much as ever.
“The HUDAWI Centre is a vital resource for the African-Caribbean community and I hope priority is given to us,” he said.
A man who gave his name only as ‘Jason’ said attending the HUDAWI Centre as a young person gave him the confidence to thrive.
“Being a young black boy in society is hard,” he said. “Our community is broken. There’s a broken spirit amongst us.
“I work in a school where there are a lot of ethnic minority children and I see how hard it is for them. They are craving for a place to be seen, felt and heard.
“Having the HUDAWI Centre would bring the love and togetherness back to our community.”
Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet member for regeneration, said “nothing would give me greater delight” than an asset transfer for the HUDAWI Centre and he encouraged community leaders to work with council officers to make it happen.