AN award-winning majorette troop has been left with nowhere to train just days before a major competition.
The Laindon Suzettes have been able to return to the Bluehouse Farm Community Centre in Laindon Link, after the neighbouring hall was destroyed in a suspected arson attack.
Firefighters were able to save the building from burning to the ground on Sunday, but it has been out of bounds while safety checks were carried out.
The majorettes, who formed more than 30 years ago, are due to take part in a regional competition in Ipswich this Sunday and national finals in six weeks.
Troupe leader Margaret Fulker said: “It might be weeks before we can get back in.
“I stood there for three hours watching the fire, it just broke my heart. I thought we were finished and everything was gone.
“The support we have had has been absolutely fantastic. We are part of the UK Federation of Majorettes and its motto is to help one another.”
James Hornsby School in Leinster Road, Laindon, has offered to let the troupe train in its hall on Friday, but it has nowhere to go next week.
The majorettes also thought they were not going to be able to compete with their own equipment until council and fire service safety officers went into the wreckage yesterday and retrieved them from a cupboard.
The group was overwhelmed with the support from groups around the country which offered to lend them equipment ahead of the competition.
Trainer Emma Carrington, 29, who became a majorette when she was five years old, said: “All our stuff could have been ruined by the water used to put out the fire, smoke damaged or could have melted. We just didn’t know because we couldn’t get in there.
“The parents and the girls have all been fantastic though, we are very lucky really.”
Anyone who can help the Laindon Suzettes should call Mrs Fulker on 01268 415480.
MOST groups which rely on Bluehouse Farm Community Centre have been able to find a temporary base in the wake of the fire.
Basildon Council, which owns the building, has helped secure alternative premises across the borough for the Academy of Self Defence Karate Group, Rainbows, Guides and Centre Stage Dance Group.
Cherubim and Seraphim Faith Group, which had to be evacuated from its Sunday service after the roof caught fire, has also found a new base.
However, Busy Bees pre-school, which runs morning and afternoon sessions five days a week, is still struggling to find somewhere suitable.
Councillor Terri Sargent, responsible for community, said: “We have made it our priority to find alternative premises for the groups that used it. Most of the groups have been found premises, but we are still looking for somewhere suitable for Busy Bees pre-school.
“We understand how valued this facility is to the community and are doing all we can to minimise disruption.
“It is too early to say how much it will cost and how long it will take to rebuild the centre, as the damage will need to be assessed.
“The council has carried out an initial inspection of the building and made it safe.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the fire service and police for their swift response to the fire.”