Fox Hollies Forum
This is well known as Acocks Green's community centre today. However it started its life as part of St Mary's church. The Church wanted to see a place on the new estate, where St Mary's could reach out to the new communities coming to live there. 0.72 acres was bought by the Diocese from the Corporation on 26th July 1927 for just under £560 (the conveyance was completed on 27th March 1928). The Foundation Stone was laid on 2nd November 1935. The name of the new building was announced in July 1936: Bishop Westcott Church Hall. Some were not in agreement with this name, but he was a local man, having been educated at King Edward VI School. He later became Bishop of Durham, from 1890 until his death.
The Hall was dedicated on 26th September 1936. A procession of white-robed choir members and church and civic dignitaries walked from Dolphin Lane schools to Greenwood Avenue. About 325 people attended the ceremony. Here are some extracts from St Mary's Magazine:
This Church Hall, (the Bishop) said, was the beginning of a scheme to serve what was known as the Fox Hollies Estate, an area formerly farm land and now one of fine roads and houses. These growing estates imposed an obligation on us as Churchmen and to this end an appeal was launched and now reached the figure of £78,000, but must reach the figure aimed for to be wholly successful. The building was designed by Messrs. J.A. Chatwin and Son and built by Messrs. Geo. Webb, and had a simple dignity which in its simplicity, the Bishop considered, was attractive....He hoped the Hall would be a centre of "good living, wholesome ideals and social enthusiasm", and he thought in time to come the name given to the Hall would be fully appreciated...Councillor Bailey Cox expressed his pleasure in being present, not only as deputy for the Lord Mayor but also as senior councillor for the ward. He regarded the ceremony as the inauguration of a new era in Acocks Green, the creation of a centre of religious and social activity for all time. If, added the Councillor, he said the building was long overdue he was stating the obvious. The Local Authority provided homes, gardens and open spaces, and left it to the Church to provide its own places of worship. This building had only been made possible by the existence of the Bishop's Appeal, to which the Bishop had given such enthusiasm. The Appeal Fund did not provide all but left it to local churchpeople and those who were to use the Hall to complete the work.
Apart from four services on Sunday, a choir was formed, a Tuesday class started, and the Girls' brigade, Girl Guides, Lads' Brigade and Boy Scouts began meeting at the Hall. A club for over-14s began on Friday evenings. Later a Sanctuary Guild, a Men's Class, a Mothers' Meeting and a Social Circle met there.
St Mary's used the Hall until 1963. On 25th March of that year the City leased the site back from the Diocese, but it did not occupy it until July or August, after which there was no St. Mary's caretaker. (Thanks to Mary Law for help with the lease information). We do not know what use the city made of it for the next few years. Around 1970 the building became Greenwood Youth Centre, but then it was decided to refurbish it, and it closed for many months, while alterations were made. By September the building belonged to Hartfield School, and had been renamed Fox Hollies Forum. (A new lease dates from 26th November 1971, made within the 1968 to 1996 lease period). A brick wall was built in front of the stage at the far end, which produced a workshop area at the back of the building. A low ceiling was put in, and an office was created at the front. Malcolm Currie was appointed Head of Community Activities at Hartfield School, which involved being responsible for the development of the Forum. Soon a whole range of community activities developed. Below is the list of activities at the Forum in 1976, from that year's Carnival programme.
In September 1971 Fox Hollies Forum was planning to start a folk club. In 1972, music was extended, with rock and acoustic concerts, film nights, and talks on Sunday evenings. One of these concerts was given by the Fishnet Tight Swing Orchestra! At this stage, Fox Hollies Forum was one of only a few leisure centres in Birmingham. Their summer playscheme visited Twycross Zoo on July 22nd 1972. Hartfield School's bus took most of the passengers, over 50 children and 19 adults. The rest went in Rev. Tabraham's van.
For the first 25 years or so the City was able to pay a peppercorn rent, but since 2001 it has had to pay a fair rent.
Fox Hollies Forum Community Association has changed its governance, and around 2017 it became a Community Incorporated Organisation (CIO): this a new way of running charitable groups. In 2020 the Forum won the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service, a kind of MBE for organisations. Below is the Press Release.