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Arbury Community Centre: When The Writing Was On The Big Red Wall...

The Arbury Community Centre on the Arbury Town Park in Campkin Road, was campaigned for by the Arbury Community Association and other community members, and took years to become reality.

Next year will mark fifty years of the Centre.

The beginnings were fraught with financial difficulties, and even in May 1974, shortly before the official opening, nothing was secure.

Arbury Ward councillor Peter Cowell, and others, stated that the centre needed more financial input from the Council. 

Said Mr Cowell: 

'It looks like being a white elephant before we even get it off the ground.'

However, the centre survived and does to this day. But 1974 also brought more problems - this time with the centre's original signage:

From the Cambridge Evening News, May 14, 1974:

Residents see red over community centre sign

Residents living opposite the new Arbury Community Centre, in Campkin Road, are seeing red - in more senses than one.

The centre's temporary corrugated iron end-wall is finished in bright scarlet. On this brilliant red ground have been painted, in black letters three feet high and ten inches thick, the words Arbury Community Centre.

No one with a view of the wall seems to appreciate the design or the colour. One of the least appreciative, Mr Wilfred Falkner, today sent a letter to the community association asking for a change of colour and a simple noticeboard.

He is supported by 21 neighbours.

Mr Falkner lives smack opposite the community centre, at No 267 Campkin Road, and he is worried that the supposedly temporary "eyesore" may not be so temporary now that the centre is in financial trouble, and may not be completed for some time.

When the building is complete, the hall will be extended to include a stage, and the end wall will be brick to match the rest of the building.

'I don't think we're asking for the moon,' said Mr Falkner. 'All we want is that it should be painted green which is much more in keeping. Several of the people I talked to suggested green themselves. I find absolutely no positive support for scarlet, and only two people who were neutral. That's over 90% against.'

The Community Association secretary, Mrs Mary Jackson, said: 'We are sorry that people living opposite don't like it, and we hope we can raise the money as soon as possible to finish the building. But I can't offer them any hope it'll come down tomorrow. Faith is what gets these things done.'

A city councillor representing Arbury, Councillor Bob Woods, who lives at 23 Campkin Road, said: 'I must admit the association is in financial straits at the moment, and it will be some considerable time before the wall comes down - though I personally think it's an excellent colour. And I don't think the association can afford to have it repainted.'

The only one of us here at the Arbury Cambridge site who remembers the scarlet wall is Andy, who says: 

'My best mate lived in Walker Court on North Arbury and we were fascinated as the centre took shape. I thought North Arbury was much more exciting than South Arbury, where I lived, because things were always happening - courtesy of community effort, like the Arbury Adventure Playground in Nuns Way and, a little later, the Arbury Carnival began. 

'Of course, people on South Arbury were also very much involved in the community efforts, but the North seemed to be where things were placed. The Centre was right in the centre of things - so that was great. I liked the scarlet wall, but I was a kid at the time. It seemed pretty darned funky! Not sure I'd like something similar opposite my house now.'

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