Leicester’s popular African Caribbean Centre is to be run by a community organisation after they won their bid to take over from the city council.
The African Heritage Alliance will be granted a five-year lease to run the centre, which sits in Maidstone Road, Highfields.
The decision has been taken following an open bidding process and the submission of a detailed business plan by the organisation.
A consultation, carried out in 2021, found that 53 per cent of respondents would like to see the centre run by a community organisation.
“Local facilities are often best run by the people who use them and, over the years, a number of centres have already successfully transferred to community groups through our Transforming Neighbourhood Services programme,” explained City Mayor Peter Soulsby.
“The results of our consultation in 2021 showed there was local support for a community group to take over the running of the African Caribbean Centre, so I hope this decision will be a positive step for the whole community.
“The African Heritage Alliance have produced a business plan that demonstrates they have the capacity, experience and resources to take on the running of the African Caribbean Centre.
“I look forward to the implementation of this plan, which will bring benefits to the community while making a significant contribution to the social and economic wellbeing of the area.”
In its business plan, the group set out its proposals for expanding the range of community services provided at the Maidstone Road centre – such as new social activities and childcare services – and showed how it would meet the needs of the local African and Caribbean heritage community through education, support and welfare services.
Preparations for the handover of the building will now get under way, with the African Heritage Alliance expected to take over the lease in the next six to nine months.
Amanda Toussaint Director of the African Heritage Alliance, told the Leicester Times that it was “exciting new chapter” for the centre, which has been around since the 1980s.
“What we’re looking forward to most is just getting the centre to be vibrant again. The building has had many names and many guises over the years, and used to be a really focal point in the city, particularly for people of African heritage,” she explained.
“However, over the past few years I think most people would agree that the centre’s kind of lost its buzz, and its sense of community. So I think what we’re most excited about, is really bringing that back and really making the centre into ‘the place to be’ – somewhere where there’s lots of activity, lots of engagement and it’s a vibrant part of the community. A place where people want to come and congregate,” she added.
The decision means that responsibility for repairs, maintenance and day-to-day running costs for the building will be transferred from the council to the community group, which will also pay the council a peppercorn rent of £1.
A grant of £60,000 will support the African Heritage Alliance with running costs during the first year of their lease.