It is now a decade since Tandridge District Council voted to pass ownership of the Soper Hall to the Soper Hall Community Centre Limited, after a long battle.
In the years since, the hall has had its highs and lows. A particular low was in 2014, when it was deemed unviable as a community centre and plans were made to sell it for development.
I joined the board then, determined to overturn that decision and market the hell out of this unique, beautiful building.
With people like the fantastic Andy Parr involved, we recruited a new team of directors and proved the naysayers wrong. Seven years later, the hall is the beating heart of Caterham, and is the focus for community events, celebrations, weddings, elections, business events, markets, music and comedy nights, beer festivals and more. The under-utilised office space has been remodelled and modernised, and has a host of tenants, from Ridge Radio to the Caterham Independent. The rents from these sustained us during the lockdown, when our income was slashed.
We have installed new toilet facilities and outside lighting, redecorated walls and ceilings, and refurbished the floors. Our gorgeous Garland Hall was formed from the warren of tiny offices previously occupied by the CAB.
All this activity has been made possible by the selfless work and efforts of a team of fabulous individuals, both past and present, who have given their precious time to the board: Matthew L Baker, Lisa Fisher, Hilary Hopkinson, Gina Miller, Andy Parr, Lorena Oberg, Charlotte Drinkwater, Michael Cooper, and the sadly missed Chris Camden. I must also mention the many volunteers who support our events, and our great office managers.
It’s been amazing, guys.