Regeneration and a more optimistic future - plus dropping in on Friday bingo - all part of today's royal visit to Wisbech by the Duke of Gloucester
PUBLISHED: 14:10 07 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:10 07 September 2018
Thirteen years after its official opening by the Princess Royal, the Oasis Community Centre in Wisbech hosted a second royal visit today, that of the Duke of Gloucester.
Much has changed in the intervening years, especially a renewed sense of optimism, as was explained to the duke.
“There are lots going on that we are extremely proud to be part of,” said Angie Dickinson, a volunteer at the centre.
“I was so excited about today and a little bit nervous too. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life and be able to tell the grandchildren about.
“The duke was very interested in speaking to me about the animals and people project that I work on that helps people with mental health problems.
“He said we were doing brilliant work and I explained that this has changed my life.”
HRH spent time touring the centre, meeting members from different projects before enjoying a buffet lunch. He visited the Age UK group who were enjoying a Friday bingo session with biscuits and juice.
“Do you get to say a special phrase that goes with the numbers when they are called?” he asked.
“Oh yes, we say Theresa May’s den number 10,” one member said, as everyone chuckled.
Lucy Gray, another Oasis volunteer, said: “This is brilliant, this is what we have been waiting for and it feels lovely to be able to spend with everyone else and have a chat with the duke so he can understand what is happening here in our community.”
Tracey Goddard spoke to the duke about the community farm project that Anglian Water is helping to coordinate. She said: “You could tell he was really interested in what we are looking to do the project.
“He asked about how it supports people and spent time talking to us, so this has been really nice for him to recognise what is going on here in Wisbech.”
The Oasis was built as a result of more than three years work by a group of local residents following a feasibility study which found that a new centre would be more appropriate than refurbishing the old building.
Oasis manager Chris Stevens said: “There are so many good things happening in the area and today has been a great opportunity for everyone involved to let others know what is happening.”
One of the other guests invited to meet with the duke was Russell Beal, senior manager of Anglian Water, the company that continues to play a huge part in the town’s regeneration.
He said: “We are delighted that the duke is visiting today and this is a milestone in the progress we are making in the area.
“There are so many things that are part of a jigsaw in Wisbech and there are many different groups coming together here as a piece of moving that jigsaw forward.”
Anglian Water’s influence in the town has become a pivotal element in many projects since seconding Mr Beal in 2013 as a business connector to help to deliver key elements of the Wisbech 2020 Vision.
Ironically one of the tasks he successfully undertook was to help the Ferry Project regenerate another community centre in Wisbech, the Queen Mary Centre, that has become a vital hub in helping people find work and provide vocational support.