Friends Centre was established in 1945 by Brighton Quakers. Throughout the Second World War, the Friends Meeting House was open to evacuees, refugees, troops and anyone else who was far from home. Informal social activities were often arranged. Friends Centre partly grew from these activities, and partly from concern amongst Brighton Quakers that there were few opportunities for local people to meet one another and talk.
In the early days, Friends Centre worked closely with the Workers’ Educational Association, local education authority, art gallery and museum, youth service and local music groups to run informal learning events, including talks, discussion groups, music recitals, play readings, and a puppet group. Friends Centre was also involved in social action, calling meetings and study groups on many social issues including the campaign for African independence. Money was short and most of the work was done by volunteers, but by the tenth anniversary, activities were being held every night of the week and Friends Centre had gained a good reputation for putting on interesting talks and adopting an adventurous approach to art, music, poetry and philosophy.
Friends Centre courses gradually became more formalised, paid staff were recruited, and the Centre attracted government funding and accreditation from various educational bodies. Friends Centre outgrew the Friends Meeting House in 2005 and secured new classroom space at Ivory Place and a temporary office in Vine Street. In December 2009 we relocated our Vine St office to Brighton Junction in Isetta Square where we also have 4 new training rooms. Although an independent organisation, Friends Centre still retains the Quaker values of friendship, community, and social justice.
Throughout its history Friends Centre has learned the importance of involving people – learners, volunteers, and other organisations. Learners are an essential part of Friends Centre and contribute their ideas, energy and enthusiasms.
‘We felt the community would have all kinds of needs, such as meeting together in a search for knowledge and to share ideas, and they would need a place where every colour, creed, religion and social background could come.’ – Margery Sedgwick, Principal from 1945 to 1973
Interview with Pat Norman at Brighton Quaker Meeting House