Coronation Street and Mrs Brown’s Boys actress Susie Blake cut the ribbon on a Donnington Parish Hall extension this month (December 15).
The introduction of a new self-contained meeting room will benefit the community ‘enormously’, according to the parish, due to the increase in space.
Reverend James Cooper, St George’s Church vicar, revealed that he inherited an ‘ambitious project’ to extend the hall when he arrived in 2015.
He said: “Quite a few years ago the Chichester District Council had offered the parish a considerable sum of money from their community development funding pot to provide enhanced community facilities and, together with a generous bequest from the late Bunty Ison, the idea of adding a smaller hall began to take shape.”
Reverend Cooper compared the project to that of a ‘relay marathon’.
He added: “It has hardly been a 100m dash; rather a relay marathon with the batten passing to several people along the way, beginning with Karen Griffin and ending with Alan Martin and involving umpteen people.
“It has been a true team effort with many ups and downs, but I am indebted to everyone who has played a part in achieving what we are celebrating, 60 years after the opening of the main hall.”
Equipped with its own fully accessible toilet and kitchenette, the parish said the new hall can be used independently of the existing main hall, giving ‘greater access’ for community groups. A spokesman added: “Coupled with the opening was the dedication of a Friendship Garden to the memory of Cicely Bartram who had worked tirelessly over many decades to build a community around the hall [and] it fell to Susie Blake to cut the ribbon and declare the ‘Westwing’ open for business.”
The spokesman said Susie was ‘thrilled’ to see the stage actively used once again and she applauded the hard work and dedication involved in building such a ‘strong sense of community’, promising ‘to return to test it out!’.
Susie is well known for her stage and television work, including Victoria Wood’s television programmes, Coronation Street and Mrs Brown’s Boys, whilst the parish said she is currently rehearsing for the role of Miss Marple in a UK tour of the The Mirror Crack’d, which begins in Salisbury in mid-February.
District councillor Eileen Lintill, cabinet member for communities, also attended the opening.
“It must have been a very busy time of year for her,” Reverend Cooper continued.
“We were also grateful that David Hyland, community and partnerships support manager, and Shona Turner from community engagement and development were able to be there to see the outcome of the project they have been engaged with for a number of years.”