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Profile - Andy Bryant, manager of the Allendale Centre

By Stour & Avon Magazine  |  Posted: November 30, 2012

Andy Bryant. MB Photo

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ANDY Bryant harbours huge ambitions for the Allendale Centre

Appointed centre manager in August last year, his aim is to not just bring the centre - which was built in the 1970s - into the 21st century, he wants it to be the very best in the country.

The job is far removed from his previous career.

As an officer in the merchant navy he served with the Royal Fleet Auxilliary for eight years as a chef.

"I saw some fantastic corners of the world," he said.

In 2000 he was sent to the former Yugoslavia as part of the NATO presence in Split Harbour where he provided some first aid relief to local orphanages. He was subsequently awarded the NATO service medal for his time there. He went on to spend eight months positioned five miles off of the coast of Basra sandwiched between two of the American aircraft carriers for the duration of the last Gulf war providing supplies and troops to support the Royal Marines and SBS.

He added: "I also spent time in Sierra Leone just after the UN had stopped the bloodshed of the civil war. "Part of my last deployment was as hurricane aid relief support in the Caribbean after hurricanes Ivan and Frances devastated some of the Windward islands in 2005-6. This deployment was as part of the ships first aid team. We were choppered in to the worst hit islands as part of the Royal Navy task group. We also undertook anti drugs patrols with the US Coast Guard and actually assisted with a seize 52 million dollars worth of cocaine headed for America."

However, he was to leave the sea in order to pursue a more grounded lifestyle.

Born in Bristol, he had moved with his family to Sixpenny Handley when he was 13, attending Cranborne Middle and then Queen Elizabeth's School.

So it was unsurprising that he should return to east Dorset where he took a job with a local architectural aluminium company and met his wife Gemma.

The couple married in Hampreston Church three years ago and have two boys, James 18months, and Harry three months old.

What drew him to apply for the job at the Allendale Centre?

"It was an opportunity to take on a large project which was very much looking to the future," he said, adding that the executive committee of the board of trustees has a three year strategic plan to improve the AllendaleCentre, its facilities, resources and services.

In the future Andy hopes the centre will be open seven days a week.

"We have diminishing grants from local authorities, so we have to be self sufficient. In the past we haven't lived up to expectations," Andy said.

He added that East Dorset District Council - which owns the building - was very pro-active and advice was always forthcoming.

The coffee shop has been updated and both kitchens and the front toilets have been refurbished.

"I have targets I have to meet, and I want to encourage young families to use the building," he said.

An exciting development at the Allendale Centre is the waterside screen in the cafe which shows Liquid Gold, a film of the River Allen made by world-renowned film maker Hugh Miles.

In the future it is planned to have a camera on the river bed in a joint project with Waitrose.

There are also plans to utilise the land in front of the centre, which could include a play area.

The Art and Acers project has already made a difference to the exterior of the building and the Waterside Cafe.

Andy admits his change of lifestyle has been huge.

"To be in charge of a community centre is very different to living in a metal box. However, if we live up to expectations it will become a cutting edge community centre."

His life is very full-on.

A keen surfer, he was one of the first to use the ill-fated Boscombe surf reef, which he says should have been installed in Cornwall and not in Bournemouth. He is a member of Surfers against Sewage.

Another important part of his life is music.

He learned to play the guitar as a young boy and has played in several bands.

"Whilst at sea I was in a band which played 60s music and sea shanties."

He was taught to play by his father who has joined O'Dalaigh's Band which contains two members of the former Yetties.

Andy is a young man with lots of ideas and bags of enthusiasm.

"My dream for the Allendale Centre is very achievable," he concluded.

Report and photo by Marilyn Barber

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