The Boxmoor Arts Centre for Young People was founded in 1963, using money from the Margaret Lloyd Trust.
It was housed in the Boxmoor Hall premises at Heath Park and was managed by a charity committee for a number of years. Herts County Council’s youth and community Service became involved in the management until the early 1990s.
In the 1960s, the Arts Centre ran an arts play scheme that allowed children to take part in activities during school holidays and on Saturdays during term time.
Whilst there was always a manager in charge, there were a number of artists and youth workers involved in the running of events and classes on a part-time basis, during both the charity’s tenure from the council and that of the youth and community team. They relied heavily on attendance to meet their outgoing expenses.
The early days of the centre were very lively and the casual ‘drop-in’ nature of the art class made for a very informal atmosphere.
There had been some kind of youth theatre run from the centre for many years, although the main focus seemed to be on visual rather than performing arts in the early days. The Youth Theatre went from strength to strength and a similar Youth Dance group was formed.
The Saturday Art Club also flourished and a number of minor masterpieces left the building every week. Holiday activities ranged from video courses to workshops with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and designing sets with an ex-Hollywood designer.
The Old Town Hall Arts Education Service linked with the Youth Arts Centre and combined events were held.
When the Youth & Community Service withdrew their financial support, the Charity Committee accepted the responsibility once again. When it finally became clear that the committee was not able to manage any longer, Dacorum Borough Council took over the reins in 1996.
New health and safety rules meant that it became impossible to run drop-in sessions for younger children. An annual rock school was established for several years. The Tuesday Rock Room event was very popular – space could be hired to rehearse away from complaining neighbours.
Sadly, the costs of maintaining the hall and providing the necessary facilities for disabled people meant that the council decided to close the venue in 2004.
The hall was left empty for several years and the council then put it up for auction. A campaign was formed to Save Boxmoor Hall from the hands of developers. It had been built with the purpose of being a community-based resource and had been used for lectures, concerts, magistrates’ courts, civic events, parties, and even as an air wardens centre during the Second World War.
Luckily, Sally Ilsley, a Hemel Hempstead lady who already ran a successful dance school, had her bid accepted and the Life and Soul Academy was born in 2007. The hall once again resounds to young people singing and dancing and exploring the performing arts in many forms. After gaining a licence for alcohol to be served, the hall has now also become a stylish and convenient venue for wedding and other family celebrations.
For more information on the present day activities at Boxmoor Hall visit www.boxmoorhall.co.uk
If you have any memories of photos of the Arts Centre at Boxmoor Hall contact Roger Hands 01442 393381 for a future exhibition.