When Sevanti flung open the doors of the Unity Centre at 6.30pm last Saturday she was amazed to see 450-500 people queuing round the block.
“There was barely space for them all - I couldn’t even do a head count. They wanted to see what was happening to this building they loved so much. It’s been non-stop since!”
It was a triumphant conclusion to three years’ crowdfunding, ploughing in her own money and liaising with planners, not just to restore Lewes’ old Turkish Baths but create a destination everyone can enjoy.
The Unity Centre is a Community Interest Company generating profit on a ‘pay it forward’ structure so money contributes to specific projects for anyone considered disadvantaged. It’s a groundbreaking scheme, a fully inclusive centre offering meditation, yoga, dance, art, music, theatre, therapy, healing and everything related.
Founder Sevanti stresses the needs of people with disablements or behavioural difficulties are also central to her project. “We have full disabled access and close our doors to no-one.”
Lewes Mayor John Lamb accompanied by wife Gaynor cut the ribbon to formally open the centre. He said: “It’s wonderful to bring alive a much-loved old building.”
A dance, yoga and bodywork teacher for almost 20 years, Sevanti runs her own retreats and opened a Unity Studio in Brighton in 2012. She’s flooded the elegant interior of the Turkish Baths with colour and light while incorporating underfloor heating, an infra-red sauna, flotation pools, vegan cafe Soul Soup, accessible and affordable skin treatments and jewellery to buy.
All treatments and classes are half price for the first month. The Centre opened to acoustic music by Carrie Tree and Keith Ellis and Harry Trix’s swing band.