FEATURE: How Chapeltown and Burncross residents are working together for a bright future

Chapeltown and Burncross Community Centre.
Chapeltown and Burncross Community Centre.

People living in neighbouring Chapeltown and Burncross will tell you both are distinct areas in their own right.

But one thing that unites residents on both sides of the border is community spirit.

Exercise class at Chapeltown and Burncross Community Centre.

Exercise class at Chapeltown and Burncross Community Centre.

And one place that epitomizes this is the Chapeltown and Burncross Community Centre.

The history of the place can be traced back four decades.

In the late 70s residents identified that there was a lack of community facilities in their neighbourhood.

But rather than apathetically sit back and complain, residents decided to band together and do something about it.

Members of Chapeltown Community Forum during a previous fundraising event at Christmas.

Members of Chapeltown Community Forum during a previous fundraising event at Christmas.

They launched a fundraising campaign and after digging deep in their pockets the centre was officially opened in 1981.

Nearly 40 years later, the place is still going strong.

Lara Gothique, trustee and chairperson of the executive committee that runs the centre, said: "It was built for the community, by the community, and is used every week by the community.

"It has remained open continuously for all of these years, which is amazing really and shows what a tight-nit community it is here."

Lara Gothique.

Lara Gothique.

Her dance class Velvet Burlesque is just one of a dozen organisations that call the centre home.

There is also yoga and pilates, exercise classes for older people, folk dance, Zumba and playgroups. Brownies and girl guides also host meetings there.

About 200 people use it week in week out.

But Lara explained that the going was not always so good. But whenever the centre has faced challenging times, the community has rallied to ensure it has a future.

John Housley.

John Housley.

She said: "There has been times of upheaval.

"We needed to raise several thousands of pounds a couple of years ago to replace the windows and the floor, which were becoming aged, but the community really got behind us.

“We have a plaque up with the names of about 10 businesses who have contributed funding to the upkeep of the place which is another indicator of how well thought of the place is.

"It's quite heart-warming.”

While the centre is undoubtedly doing well, those that run it are always looking to expand its appeal, which, perhaps, is key to its success.

Said Lara: "We are popular but some people still don't know we are here.

The plaque showing the opening date of the community centre.

The plaque showing the opening date of the community centre.

"You have to move with the times and recently we launched a Facebook page and now have more than 500 friends. We're also on Twitter.

"It's a great way to get our name out there and it has helped to increase footfall."

Angela Smith, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said: "One of the great things about the north of Sheffield is the sheer volume of its community organisations.

"All of them play a vital part in holding communities together, giving many people a purpose in life.

"Chapeltown and Burncross Trust is typical of one of these organisations.

"Without organisations such as this life would be that little fulfilling.”

The centre is not the only community asset to make the most of modern technology.

The Chapeltown Forum was launched in 2012 by a group of volunteers and businesses who wanted to champion everything that is great about the area.

It started out as a way of promoting community events taking place over Christmas that year but its appeal has now been broadened to promote events and activities going on all year round.

Six years after launching, the forum now has its own website, Instagram account and Facebook page - which has been 'liked' by more than 1000 people.

Forum chair John Housley said he is proud that residents have worked together to create memorable events to celebrate major milestones, such as The Queen's birthday, but also smaller occasions such as annual summer and Christmas fairs.

He added the next major community event is the spring fair at Chapeltown Methodist Church on Saturday, April 21, from 10am to 4pm.

The 66-year-old, who is also chair of Chapeltown in Bloom and represents the town on Ecclesfield Parish Council, said: "We try to get as many members of the community to be involved as possible.

"The best things about Chapeltown are the good transport routes to the M1, railway and bus, and we are central to Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield.

"There are also a number of volunteer groups for all ages and there is a genuine desire to support the community."

Councillor Zoe Sykes, ward member for West Ecclesfield, which covers Burncross and Chapeltown, highlighted the Gateway Garden as an example of this desire to make the community better.

She said: "This used to be a council depot which was given to the Burncross Action Team and they spent months turning it into a lovely flower garden for visitors.

"It was opened last year and looks fantastic. They also have an open classroom and school visits. This shows what great spirit there is."

Another recent project has seen Ecclesfield Parish Council and the area's rotary club join forces to buy six defibrillator machines.

The device can be used by trained members of the public to help someone in cardiac arrest before paramedics arrive.

They are being sited across the area at The Acorn pub in Burncross, Chapeltown Library, Ecclesfield Parish Council offices, Ecclesfield Library, Grenoside Community Centre and at a sheltered housing complex in Kinsey Road, High Green.

Coun Sykes said she pushed for the machines after witnessing serous road accidents during her 10 years working as a traffic officer for Highways England.

She said: "There was occasions when we could have done with a defib machine, they save lives and are so important.

"Once they are in we will be looking at organising training sessions for the community."

councillors Adam Hurst and Zoe Sykes at the Gateway Garden.

councillors Adam Hurst and Zoe Sykes at the Gateway Garden.