In the mid-eighties I spent some of each Easter holiday on an orchestral course at The Purbeck Centre, Swanage, Dorset. Even though the accommodation was basic (even by the standards of the time) and the food was atrocious, I have incredibly good memories of these courses. They were my first little taste of freedom and romance – although the objects of my affection generally had no idea because I was a very reserved 15 year old!
Anyway, some 30 years later, Mark and I have just been back to explore Swanage. We were lucky enough to have the wonderful weather just before Easter and the walking was fantastic. We just parked the car at the B+B and walked for four days… bliss!
We saw the Centre from one of our cliff top walks, so I knew it was still standing. To be honest, I was expecting the whole area to have been redeveloped for houses years ago. The Centre was originally built as a secondary school for Swanage, so the grounds were enormous. It seemed unlikely that such a large area had escaped the developer’s eye..
It took me a few days to pluck up the courage to go and have a closer look. I suppose by this time I felt that I’d laid enough ghosts and memories to rest around the rest of the town so it wasn’t going to feel too weird….
This was the first building we found as we walked around the edge of the bowling green. It’s hard to make out, but this is the door to the classroom where we used to have violin sectional rehearsals.
Here’s the footpath outside the rehearsal room where I used to meet up with my friend Sophie before we scuttled off into town for some decent food (or decided to stalk the next young man of our choice!)
The canteen building. It looks like it could have been a legacy from the Second World War in Swanage. The food was consistently appalling!
The front of the canteen. The window is blocked up with some of the infamous ‘Purbeck Centre Single Duvets’! My sister also did a few of these courses and she remembered how the duvets were too short and too narrow to be of any real use. Fortunately there also seemed to be an almost unlimited supply so most people improvised with two horizontal duvets (plus a coat in cold weather!)
The front of the main building. The first floor classrooms were used as dormitories… really Spartan! A large part of the ground floor at this side was the main school hall, where we had full orchestra rehearsals. We’d learn a Symphony from scratch in a couple of days, plus a couple of other shorter works. The rehearsal programme was pretty intense, but there was always time to plan another ‘dorm raid’ or practical joke (almost always involving those duvets!!)
It’s all boarded up now. The bottom end of the huge playing fields have been redeveloped as a new primary school but the future of this end of the site seems less clear. Apparently there have been plenty of requests for housing development but nothing has got off the ground.
Whatever it’s future… I think I’m glad I got chance to see this old friend one more time!