The journey of a community building that won’t lose because it won’t give up!
If you head up to Normandy Way in Bodmin you may have noticed the string of unassuming 1940’s buildings that are steeped in modern history.
Walker Lines Gymnasium Trust, a registered charity, is one of these fascinating buildings. After being a gym for American troops, a language school, derelict and ‘not fit for use’ and a youth club that offered roller skating, it is now the only building in the row that is back to its original purpose and is once again a gym.
However, it may still be a gym but has left its roots in military history in the past and is now very much a community building - although it does still have its incredible 1940’s men’s toilets which are now of historical interest!
Bodmin Life met with Balu Madhvani, the Trust Chairman and President of the boxing club, to find out about all the incredible refurbishments that have been happening recently by the local building firm Kernow Builders and Maintenance Ltd.
Balu said that the ethos of the gymnasium is that ‘nobody should be denied their chosen activity due to cost’, and that they try to make the building and the activities provided accessible to the community.
This has meant that there has been a lot of fundraising, donations and laborious funding bids to enable this incredible refurbishment. There was a very generous legacy left by supporter Ron Marshall of Bodmin, which was then kindly matched by Sports England and finally enabled this round of renovations.
This has been ‘Phase 1’ of the gym’s refurbishment plans which has included fixing leaks, a new roof, re-wiring, insulation and for the first time ever the gym will have hot water! This will also be provided by a heat source system powered by solar panels on the new roof which is fantastic news for the sustainability of the building.
The Walker Lines Gymnasium Trust has hosted a range of community activities and groups. There is a music studio used by local X Factor star, Benji Matthews and even throughout the refurbishment there are still dog training classes with Bodmin Dog Training, it is the home of the Bodmin Amateur Boxing Club and the meeting place of Bodmin Rifle Club, Launceston Rifle club and even Liskeard and Looe Rifle clubs.
It has not been an easy process to get the gym to this stage with an incredible amount of work and fundraising being generated by the very modest Balu Madhvani himself, with an inspiring team of people along the way and five wonderful trustees that take no expenses and no salaries for all their efforts.
In 2008, after renting from the council for years, the groups were told that the building was for sale and that they would soon have to vacate. Balu, who has now been involved with the Bodmin Amateur Boxing Club for 22 years, couldn’t let them lose their home and helped to raise funds to secure the building from the council.
In 2010, Balu set out to raise funds himself by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. After a successful excursion with his son Jai and friend Tom Dickin, who raised money for their chosen charities under the group name, Kernow Kilimanjaro, Balu raised an incredible £18,000. By raising such an impressive amount, he secured generous match funding of £10,000 from the Bodmin Rotary Club and the same from the Thelma Brown Trust, with further donations from the boxing and rifle clubs.
In 2013, The Walker Lines Gymnasium Trust were finally able to buy the building and start the next stage of their journey to create a unique and accessible community hub.
On discussing the huge amount of work and personal efforts that have gone into this building, Balu said: “It is everybody’s duty to put something back into the community and hopefully we’re doing that.”
Balu is very excited for the space to officially re-open to even more groups and individuals that want to connect with what they offer.
The Walker Lines Gymnasium Trust is now running an appeal for local builders that may be able to donate material and plumbers who may be able to donate some of their time to help with the finishing touches to the new plumbing system that will enable the building to finally have hot water…just in time for the winter!
Please contact Balu on: 07971288804 or email: email@example.com if you are a community group interested in the space or are a builder or plumber able to help with the refurbishment. You can also find them on facebook: @walkerlinesgymnasiumtrust.