The Anstice Memorial Hall first opened in 1870 and over the years has had many uses, most of which limited the use to members only. As a Grade II listed building, the running and maintenance costs were high and in 2014 the club went into liquidation when being run as a Working Men’s Club. Local people started a campaign to save The Anstice and it was bought by Madeley Town Council who have worked with the Anstice Community Trust to renovate the building and put this much-loved local landmark back in its rightful place at the heart of our community.
After considerable renovations and work to make the building more accessible, the Anstice started to increase its offer of music and dancing events in the ball room to include things like yoga, card making, youth club, slimming club and a café and was open to the general public not just for members, the local library also moved in. There was a grand opening in the middle of February 2020 at a time when no one could envisage the extent of the impact that Covid-19 would have on the plans for this comparatively new community business.
Adapting to lockdowns
At the start of the first lockdown, the staff and trustees became part of the local network who were taking phone calls for prescriptions and shopping for people who were shielding or isolating. They were able to connect with many people this way who they would not have normally reached and share information with them about The Anstice. Between lockdowns, Laura who works at The Anstice was delighted to meet one of these people in real life as they’d popped into the café along with a friend and now felt it was a familiar place due to the work of the local network.
Laura also supports a new Youth Group that started at The Anstice in September 2020 in partnership with Shropshire Youth Association. The group was so new that it only had three members when they went back into lockdown, fortunately the group successfully moved online and engaged in regular activities.
During the pandemic The Anstice ensured its new café was a Covid secure venue, added an outside seating area after getting planning permission, offered afternoon teas in the large ball room which enabled social distancing, and supported its many volunteers to come back safely. There was no rapid testing site in South Telford for Covid-19 so The Anstice became the new venue for this too.
The Anstice was asked to work with Telford and Wrekin Council to provide winter coats for school children. As the shops closed when this work started, they had to order them all online, firstly checking with each family what type of winter coat they wanted. The staff and trustees really enjoyed delivering these to the families and seeing the smiling faces as the children tried their new warm coats on.
Some of the staff were furloughed during the lockdowns but The Anstice has continued to stay at the heart of the community and contributing to the wellbeing of local people throughout the pandemic. The key to their ongoing survival is likely to be the flexibility and adaptability that allows them to respond to changing needs within their community swiftly.