New booklet and celebrations help mark Birchington Centre’s half century

Celebrating 50 years of The Centre in Birchington

A series of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the official opening of The Centre in Alpha Road, Birchington, gets under way this week.

Complementing the events will be the launch of a new 32 page booklet by author Nick Evans which charts the story of how the idea for a new centre first came about in the 1950s, the sudden need to build it in the late 1960s and how the village pulled together to raise the money to pay for it in the 1970s and 1980s.

This brought about the mammoth three day fete called Quexpo – held annually over the August Bank Holiday weekends at Quex Park between 1970 and 1986.

Entitled Fifty Years At The Centre Of Village Life, the booklet has been written in collaboration with the Birchington Village Centre Association Trustees. It contains more than 60 illustrations of The Centre’s earliest days as well as the best years of Quexpo – an event which started out as a traction engine rally but morphed into an occasion which rivalled Kent’s county show for attendances.

Copies of the limited edition booklet will be on sale, priced £4 each, for the first time during an open coffee morning at The Centre on Saturday 1 June from 10.30am.  Nick will be on hand to sign copies for anybody interested. Visitors will also be able to enjoy an exhibition of photos and memorabilia of The Centre and Quexpo, curated by Nick, at the same time.

Nick said: “It’s been a real joy to have been invited by the trustees to write the booklet and curate the exhibition. As a teenager, I was one of an army of volunteers who helped to run stands or sideshows at successive Quexpos. I think for a lot of young people living in Birchington at the time, the event was a high point of the summer – although it was jolly hard work too!

“We have been lucky enough to have been loaned a number of items by local people from those times and we expect to have a good showing of those as well.  Look out for steam engine plaques, Quexpo volunteers’ tags and copies of the Quexpo programmes among them.”

The Centre’s celebrations get off to a musical start with a concert by Birchington Silver Band on Sunday 26 May from 2pm.

On Thursday 30 May from 7.30pm, Cllr Neville Hudson, who has long been connected with The Centre and Quexpo, gives a talk about the building’s history.

The evening of Friday 31 May sees the Birchington Guild of Players present a special show for the anniversary from 7.30pm.

During the afternoon of Saturday 1 June, there will be a performance of Rhythm Express performed in the main hall.

The evening of Saturday 1 June sees a Quexpo round-up – a social evening where friends can meet and reminisce about their experiences of the Quexpo years.  There will also be a five round quiz to test everyone’s knowledge of The Centre and Quexpo too!

A Garret traction engine named Rob Roy standing with its crew in front of Quex House, Quex Park, at the very first Quexpo in 1970. Photo © Bill Evans Collection.

On Sunday 26 May 1974, the then Mayor of Margate Cllr John Jones, supported by the Chairman of the new Thanet District Council, Cllr Harry Anish, declared the building, christened the Birchington Village Centre, well and truly open at a formal ceremony attended by the deputy Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Mrs Angela Cobb.

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