Over 50s in Bevendean

Vince Wild, founder of the BECCA centre
Photograph taken by Zoë Woods
Becca Centre
Photograph taken by Zoë Woods

Back in 1978 I worked for the local play group which was up in the Church Hall and there was some degree of conflict with the other users. They would rent the hall out at the weekends for functions and birthday parties and the staff would come in on a Monday morning and find lots of broken glass and the toys all over the place and it really was an unhappy situation. In a moment of sheer weakness I said ‘Why don’t they get a place of their own?’. Big mistake, ’cause they took me at my word!

We called a public meeting first off and they ended up saying ‘Yes’ something was needed so we set about fundraising. Unfortunately at the exact same time that we started, the Council, in their wisdom, decided they might think about building 26 houses on this green. We thought it was ghastly that we might loose the green but we thought it even more ghastly that they would do such a thing in the middle of an estate that is already crowded with houses. To destroy this green would have been absolutely criminal. It took us about 18 months for us to stop that happening and we were extremely supported. We went on from there and we tried to fundraise – it was very uphill, really hard work. We finally managed to persuade the Council to give us an interest paid loan of £10,000, like a grant.

The building started life as a gymnasium in Notting Hill! Oh yeah it was brought from a Convent in Notting Hill for the princely sum of about £5000 I think or something ridiculous! We had outline planning permission to build the centre but we couldn’t get full planning permission until we had the building. ‘Tidies’, local firm, they let us store it all on their land up at Ditchling Common which was wonderful. Some of it deteriorated in the weather and it was hugely problematic. It took us 11 years from 1976 to 1987; the place was finally opened in 1987.

The very ethos of BECCA is that it is a community project; most of it was actually erected by ourselves we did it the hard way. You know it took us 11 years to get the place up and running. When we first opened the town councillor said he was hugely impressed that we stayed the course. He said ‘Most organisations would have fallen by the way side and given up’, but we were just too pig headed. Anyway we got the place up and running and it’s been running ever since.

Comments about this page

  • I went to BECCA when I was younger and had so much fun there! Vince Wild really tried his hardest to make sure everyone had fun while they were there. I have some nice memories and videos from back in those days, thanks Vince!

    By Emma Hurrell (27/11/2006)
  • RIP Vince.

    By Hayley (13/11/2011)
  • Many of us have just heard the very sad news that Vince passed away a few days ago. To Joyce, Nikki and all the family: I am so very sorry for your loss. I have so many glorious memories of Vince on the adventure days and camps you used to arrange with Adventure Unlimited. He had the heart of an ox, the cunning of a fox and the determination of a rampaging rhinoceros. We have lost Vince the man, but Vince the legend lives on. We will miss your laughter, your tireless energy and your cups of tea. And you will live on in the transformed lives of the hundreds of children who had the pleasure and comfort of knowing you.

    By Paul Jarvis (14/11/2011)
  • I was an old school friend of Vince, we lived not far from each other in Lower Bevendean as kids. After I got married I moved away, and whenever I went down to Brighton from Portsmouth I always said hello and had a chat when he was in his booth in the London Road- then he moved to a different kind of work helping others. I never got to see him after that but he made his mark and he will not be forgotten by anyone. So sad for family and friends RIP Vince

    By Pamela Smith (14/11/2011)
  • Sorry to hear this sad news. Condolences to the friends and family. This area was a farm when I was a child starting school. I can remember seeing chickens being fed as I stood on the small wall of the school. Also on this green (apart from a playground) was a beautiful barn converted to a church. I attended Sunday school there. It was not on the place BECCA was built, or at least I do not think so. I believe it was gone before that. How are these places of beauty allowed to be got rid of so callously? Who in their right mind gives permission? I understand the new church in Norwich Drive was built to replace it! Disgraceful.

    By Jennifer Tonks (08/12/2011)

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