Opened as the West Indian Community Centre in September 1976 in the old St Matthew’s Church, on the corner of Trinity Road and Brintons Road. Half the interior had been converted into a bar, a dance area with stage, meeting rooms and kitchens with the help of a £23,000 Urban Aid Grant and three months of voluntary hours spent by the local West Indian Community. Future plans were to expand into the remaining space with a youth centre. The Centre was to become a focus for West Indian social and cultural events for nearly forty years. “It gives us independence and freedom,” Theo MacKenzie, the Chairman of the West Indian Association, to the Echo on 4 September 1976, and Phil Murphy, the secretary of the Association, said “more important than [the] activities is just the fact of having somewhere to go where members of the community can feel at home.”
By the tenth anniversary in September 1986 a sports area occupied the remaining half of the building, complete with boxing ring and well-equipped gymnasium, and earlier that year a small library and reading room had opened specialising in black cultural development.
In 1997, the building needed urgent repairs, and the possibility of demolishing the church building to build a new community centre was considered. There was still a need for the club, the library, the youth area, a creche and function rooms, and there was an opportunity to apply for funding from the Single Regeneration Budget, set up for community development projects. In February 1998, the Federation of African Caribbean Organisations received a grant towards the purchase of the freehold of “St Matthew’s Church site, Trinity Road”: until now they only had a lease for the property from the Winchester Diocese. The Federation was managing the Centre on behalf of all user groups, including the West Indian Assocation “to encourage economic, social and cultural advancement amongst African and Caribbean people through activities which promote effective use and allocation of resources whilst ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to participate.” (Southampton City Council Housing and Community Regeneration Committee, 11 February 1998). Services operating already from the Centre were a keep fit class, youth activities, under fives activities, domino groups, music workshops, theatre and drama groups, bar and food service. It was hoped to run a Saturday School and homework club and IT resource base for the school and Adult Basic Education, apprenticeship schemes for the unemployed, and an African Caribbean restaurant.
The West Indian Community Centre had become the African Caribbean Centre. They held a fun and information day in 2005, when the Autumn Unity 50+ Group, African African Caribbean Youth Group, Honey Bees under fives, Premier Martial Arts, Newtown Gymnastics, Southampton Dominoes Association and the Caribbean Islands Assocation laid out their stalls and displayed their talents.
“Celebrations, wakes, club sessions and meetings have been held there in their hundreds” reported the Echo in April 2014. All that remained of the many activities of ten years earlier were a youth steel band and the over 50s group. The roof was leaking, the main hall needed modernising, and “we can’t ask people to come in here with the building in this state” Tony Broomes told the Echo on 6 August 2014. “We’ve got to bite the bullet.” The Centre was up for sale. Among the last events was a reggae and ska night to celebrate Jamaican Independence.
The building was bought by the Southampton Lighthouse International Church in 2017, and they have invested in extensive repairs, reinstating the worship space that had been filled with the meeting rooms, sports facilities, kitchens and function rooms where for forty years members of the Southampton African Caribbean Community had come together for family events.

African Caribbean Centre, 2010s

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A family birthday party


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