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Wirral charity is lasting legacy to Charlotte
Angie Churchill in the new recording studio at the Brightside Centre in New Brighton. Picture: Paul Heaps
FACING every parent's worst nightmare, Angie Churchill's world came tumbling down when her daughter was tragically killed in a car crash almost two years ago.
Nineteen-year-old Charlotte died in April 2011 when the car in which she was a passenger hit a tree, leaving her beloved family and friends devastated and not ready to say goodbye.
But in a bid to create a lasting legacy to her "bubbly" daughter, Angie found the strength to set the ball rolling for a brand new charity within months of the accident.
Spurred on by Charlotte's closest friends, she organised a string of events, including a special music festival, to raise thousands of pounds to create Charlotte’s Brightside CLC.
Named after the nursery nurse's favourite song by The Killers, Angie had a vision to create a place where teenagers could hang out and meet new friends, meaning they had an alternative to hanging around street corners.
And now after months of hard work, tireless fundraising and even an appearance on Sky One show Sally Lindsay Unwraps All Star Christmas Presents, the centre is gearing up to open its doors in early 2013.
Angie said: “I was nominated for the show by one of my friends and I had absolutely no idea – the next minute Sally Lindsay shows up at work and tells me I’m off wing-walking which is something I’d always wanted to do.
“They then whisked us off to Turkey for a fabulous family holiday which was amazing. But unbeknown to me, the whole Brightside committee and the show were giving the centre a makeover.
"We were due to start work on it ourselves and I had been round with a builder so I knew exactly what I wanted.
"But when we came back from Turkey, the final surprise was that everything had been done and it was incredible. It was everything I pictured it would be and more – I couldn’t believe it!”
Part of the build-up to finding premises for Brightside saw Angie holding taster sessions across Wirral to find out what young people wanted from it and give them a glimpse into what the centre would be like.
As a result, she knew just what local youngsters were looking for and the centre, which is in Molyneux Drive, New Brighton, now features a recording studio, chill-out areas, table tennis, milkshake bar and a cafe area. There are also plans to create an arts and craft area as well as a stage for performing arts.
Decorated in Brightside’s signature colour of purple, the centre’s focal point is a wall tribute to Charlotte featuring funny sayings used among her friends as well as her own handwriting.
And Angie said the charity is what has helped to keep her going as she grieves for her daughter.
She explained: "It was after the funeral that her friends had the idea to put Charlotte Fest on in Vale Park and I decided I wanted it to raise money for our own project.
"I felt like I still needed a purpose as Charlotte’s mum and do something to create a legacy to her but I never could imagine it would go this big. We have had so much support from the whole community and I just wish she knew how popular and well-liked she was."
Charlotte's Brightside may not officially open until February but Angie already has big plans to expand the charity and launch more centres.
She wants to help as many young people as possible to be creative and have fun.
Angie added: "This is all about breaking that cycle that some young people fall into of hanging around in parks and drinking alcohol.
"We want to show them that there is an alternative – they can come here, give it a go and if they don’t like then that’s fine but as long as they’ve tried it.
"When we spoke to the young people to see what they wanted, their priorities were that they wanted somewhere warm, safe and with toilets and we have definitely gone way beyond that.
"I know Charlotte would be so proud that all of this is in her memory but I think she knew me enough to know that once I get an idea, I see it through – she used to ask me 'how do you always get stuff done, mum?' and I'd just say ‘that’s just what mums do, we get on with it!’
"But I don't want to stop here, I would love to eventually open more centres in Wirral and even across the country to make Brightside as big as possible!"