Preston cricket legend Freddie Flintoff visits Leyland's lifeline Base Community Centre to learn about their life-saving work
Last month, the Preston-born former England and Lancashire cricketer Freddie Flintoff was in Broadfield, Leyland to speak to people from the local community and to film footage ahead of his upcoming BBC documentary Freddie’s First Eleven.
But, as someone who grew up on a local estate in the city and who therefore has a keen appreciation for the challenges that that entails, he was also there to learn more about The Base Community Centre and the invaluable work that it does.
“We’re a very small community centre, but the work we do is all about wraparound support and family engagement,” says Andrea Andrews of the centre, which is part of the Key Unlocking Futures’ network of services. “We try to help the whole family by looking at not only what their needs are but at how we can help people develop that sense of pride in the community.
“That sense of self-worth is crucial,” adds Andrea, who has been a Youth and Community Worker with Key since December 2018. You really see the positive impact our services have on people and, as horrific as Covid was for so many, it gave us an opportunity to engage with a lot more people because they needed that support and so reached out.
“Through that, people have felt empowered by the support we’ve been able to give them and people have come forward to help because they want to give back to their community as well.”
Run by residents for residents, The Base offers a wide range of services. On a Monday, its Community Café, funded by two local businesspeople, regularly provides between 150 and 200 hot meals to those in need. There’s a Women’s Group on a Tuesday and a Men’s Group on a Friday for people who just want to get together and talk.
Their Wednesday Base One Stop community shop - described as a ‘step up from a food bank’ by Andrea - has over 240 members and allows people to pick out 10 items they need for just £2.50 as well as running recipe challenges to encourage people to cook.
They also have a We Are Noise music group on a Wednesday evening and recently started a Young Women’s Group to promote positive self-image amongst teenagers, too.
“No matter people’s background, we give them a friendly welcome,” explains Andrea. “Everyone deserves support if they need it, so we’re here to help provide the tools to help them build their confidence. Sometimes, a sense of hopelessness can take over,” she adds. “But we’re here to show people they can do things.”
Run by a team of 20 volunteers, the pandemic hit The Base hard, but the people behind the centre knew that the demand for their services would be greater than ever throughout the various lockdown.
Adapting quickly, their community café pivoted to operating as a takeaway last year and in early 2021, but has since been able to return to in-person gatherings.
In fact, such was the impact of their tremendous work, the centre was even named a winner in the Progress Housing Group’s Community Champion Awards last month, when they also hosted Flintoff, who spoke with members of the local area and took part in a game of cricket with kids on St John’s Green. And the future is looking slightly more positive, too.
“Whilst we’re still recovering from Covid, we’ve got lots in the pipeline such as a huge Christmas campaign to provide children with a Christmas Eve box of things like new pyjamas, a present, and chocolate - last year we did over 420,” says Andrea. “We’re also working with the police on a new innovative youth engagement project, as well.
“There’s a lot of pride in the work,” she adds. “I’ve always been passionate about children and young people and I’ve fallen in love with community work because of the feeling it gives me knowing I’ve helped my community in any way I can.
“I absolutely love my job.”