Wickbourne Centre officially open

SCORES of blue balloons soared skywards to celebrate the opening of a new building which will give its own special lift-off to 1,000 families across Littlehampton.

To symbolise the partnership which helped to bring about the 1.3million Wickbourne Centre, there was no celebrity figure to perform the official opening – instead, everyone attending was given a balloon to release in a mass launch.

The centre will be the main base for Sure Start Littlehampton's provision of health and education services to children aged five and under throughout the town.

Also operating from the centre are the WIRE Project, running initiatives for young people and families in the Wick area, a children's nursery and Arun Community Church, which owns the building and site.

Councils, the NHS and, crucially, local families, have also had a big say in the setting up and management of the Wickbourne Centre, and all were represented at last week's celebrations.

Robert Back, director of education and the arts for West Sussex County Council, told those gathered in the centre's hall for the opening: "There has been a true sense of community involvement. Here, it really does mean something. I have been terribly impressed by the number of people involved in moving this project forward."

Putting children at the centre of things had been a key factor, he added.

"I can't believe that it can do anything except be a huge success in the centre of Littlehampton."

Sure Start programme manager Stuart Fairweather thanked all those who had helped to make the centre become reality. "We have the new building. We have the team and the space. What we have to do now is get on and deliver the work," he said.

Church leader David Thatcher, community pastor, Sim Dendy, and Paul Sanderson, manager of the WIRE Project, both looked forward to working together with Sure Start, and Sure Start management committee chairman Elana Healey commented: "The centre is just what this community needs in Wick and Littlehampton.

"We are very lucky to have it."

Members of the WIRE's Dance Nation girls' dance group gave a performance on the stage, as an example of one of the dozens of activities now taking place in the centre, which also includes an internet caf, meeting and training rooms, creche, offices and library facility.