I wrote, in 2006 shortly after the centre closed:-
As stated on the "History" page, partially in response to a request from Age Concern, Sunderland, to use part of the building for work with retired people, a major re-ordering of the building commenced in May, 1981 and was concluded in December, 1981.
Those activities continued for a number of years, and indeed expanded under the "Action in Retirement" banner in to premises in John Street.
The church responded to a further request, this time from the City of Sunderland College, for the use of premises to provide an Internet Cafe - a drop in centre for mainly older folk to use and learn computer skills and the dedicated staff of this facility has provided an invaluable service to the community for a considerable time.
Additionally, it gave considerably more credence to concept of the Church being styled a Minster -a more modern addition to the number of ancient seats of learning and instruction which have long carried this title.
My own experience is, I believe, typical of the kind of success that this centre achieved. I had had some limited knowledge of a computer - mostly on a word processing basis, and before I retired I had been advised that I needed a more modern model to acquire other levels of skill. Unfortunately, I could not get into it at all and it was not until some 4 years or so later that I plucked up the courage to enquire at the Action in Retirement Centre and thus 'signing up' for my first course.
This was one of the best things that I have ever done, because I have now 'scratched the surface' of a number of disciplines, including word processing, charts and graphs, spreadsheets, desk top publishing and Web pages -- hence this present site. I would not have been able to achieve anything like this were it not for this facility and the support of its dedicated staff such as Zoe Hepplewhite, and more recently Brian Jessop; the latter in particular encouraged me to explore a series of two-word concepts such as "I wonder", "Can I", "What if", "Should I?" --and so on -- and thus enabled me to achieve what I did not really think was possible.
I know from talking to some of my fellow students at the centre that their own feeling is exactly the same - all have achieved, at different levels, considerably more than expected and, especially for we older ones, the disciplines involved in keeping our minds active are also apparently useful for our physical well-being as well.
Sad to relate, the centre has now closed, after a period of some twelve months during which it was under constant threat of such, allegedly because of government cuts/ insistence that more funds are directed towards meeting the targets set for 16-19 year olds. Other centres have already closed down, on the grounds of numbers signing up, but when appropriate publicity was given to the task, the Minster always managed to get a suitable response. Unfortunately, there are now some drop-outs from the centre who have had no choice - they have achieved Clait qualifications in all available course, but can no go on to Clait+ at the centre because the College or whoever decided that it could not afford it. That must be the reason because the Clait+ students here returned a 66% pass rate - considerably higher than any of the other centres.
I have been told that if I wish to pursue my studies, I would have to go to the Bede Centre, but as I was a pupil there almost fifty years ago, I do not really fancy walking through the gates again!
So , I am sorry to say, the centre 'died' at Easter of 2006, with apparently little prospect of it rising 'again' ! However, I have heard rumours of folk coming and going, perhaps with some prospect of the Minster itself running this service, but now, in October, there is no word about this; perhaps it will shortly be announced that the equipment is to be removed and that the "delapidations" agreement, whereby the college are required to restore the relevant rooms to the condition in which they found them, will be enacted -- if there are any other plans, they are still very much at the "State Secret" stage. Communication is one aspect of Minster life which is tightly and jealously guarded, it seems. Perhaps there remains the fear that careless talk can cost lives!
7th April 2008 Still no further word on the subject !!
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