Last Thursday, we were lucky enough to be invited along to the launch party for the opening of The Beech House on the...
A popular Solihull town centre community hub is proving to be a hit with visitors three months after the building's £2.3 million refurbishment was completed.
The Core, formerly Solihull Central Library & Arts Complex, is a flagship community building that is described as a 'people place' where users can access a variety of community and culture services, meet friends or simply relax. As well as being home to The Core Theatre, Courtyard Gallery, and dining facility ENCORE, The Core also houses the Library, Solihull Connect, heritage galleries, a Community Advice Hub and a number of voluntary and community sector organisations.
The Core Theatre comprises a 336-seat theatre fully equipped technically with stage flying system, sound and lighting.
A smaller multi-use Studio seating up to 130 is equipped for small-scale theatrical presentations, music events and workshops.
The Courtyard Gallery and Art Space is an exhibition space as well as an area for creative activities, which is also available for hire.
"Our audiences love the new bar spaces and the theatrical names Encore and Ovations," said Theatre Manager Lawrence Smith.
"Encore offers pre-show dining, while the brand new upstairs bar Ovations means they can meet up for a drink. Having two theatre bars cuts down that sudden rush at the interval too.
"There's a new airy, spacious feel to the whole building created simply by raising the ceilings and opening out the whole ground floor: You can see the surprised faces as people walk in, some are genuinly delighted to discover everything so easy to find and use.
"The idea of bringing so many community services and facilities together in one building is proving successful so far. Some pople arrive at The Core to pay their council tax and end up using the bank of new computers or browsing round the gallery - it's very much a 'people place'," added Lawrence.
Tracey Cox, Head of Libraries, explained how libraries are about more than just books and are also trusted places where people seek advice and meet friends. "Libraries in Solihull are thriving rather than closing," said Tracey.
"We have just invested £2.3 million in the newly refurbished flagship service at The Core, which is home to not only a library, but also a cafe, theatre, gallery, customer service centre and an information and advice hub run by our local community and voluntary organisations.
"Libraries play an important part in delivering our stronger communities agenda, ensuring that we reach individuals and communities who need our support and assistance. Our strength in Solihull is that our library service can be flexible and responsive to community needs and corporate priorities.
"One of our regular users said 'I love The Core! It feels much busier and I love the space. There are also lots of things to do and see at the Core but if you prefer, you can simply just relax and have a coffee'."
The community groups located in the building include Action for Blind People, Age UK Solihull, Aquarius, Citizens Advice Borough, Colebridge Trsut / Solihull SUSTAIN, Relate, and Solihull Borough Talking Newspapers Association.
Citizens Advice Solihull Borough was officially unveiled at The Core by HRH Princess Anne, the Princess Royal.
And since reopening as The Core in February, Solihull Connect frontline advisoers have served more than 8,000 customers. In addition to this, customers have been able to use the self-service machines and self-service payment kiosk to access council services and make payments during the operational hours of The Core.