By Andrew Sanalitro
First published in the magazine of the HLSI
As many readers will know Highgate Newtown Community Centre (HNCC) – of which I am Director – is located in Bertram Street NW5 (just behind Highgate Library). Some years ago Camden Council decided to replace the Centre with housing and a new community centre building and after many delays construction started this year. HNCC had to move out of Bertram Street and we relocated our activities in support of older people, children under five, food parcel distribution and subsidised community lunches to a range of locations in the Archway, Highgate and Dartmouth Park areas in partnership with local institutions. At the time of writing we have partnerships with Brookfield School in Dartmouth Park, Channing School in Highgate, the United Reformed Church, St Mary’s Dartmouth Park. St Michael’s Highgate and St Anne’s Highgate, where our temporary (and part time) office is located.
This enforced change has proved beneficial as it is popular and has brought us closer to the people we seek to serve. Even after the new Centre is completed we expect to continue in this ‘distributed and partnership’ mode and our intention is to reflect this change by changing our name from Highgate Newtown Community Centre Lod to Highgate Newtown Community Partnership Ltd (ie ‘HNCC to ‘HNCP).
Our new Community Centre building is expected to be ready for occupation late in 2022. We have agreed in principle with Camden Council to take a 20 year lease on the bottom three floors of the building, on terms to be negotiated but which look likely to be acceptable to us. The picture is an architect’s visualisation of the entrance to the new Centre, which will accessible both from Croftdown Road and Bertram Street.
We are raising money to create a welcoming, high-quality facility which brings people together and gives them opportunities they would not have elsewhere. We want people to feel valued when they are in the building, that they deserve quality. Our driving ambition is to create a place that directly benefits those who struggle financially to access other activities in the local community. Activities such as our launderette and hairdressers will be offered at cost price and art and pottery, cooking and exercise will either be free at the point of access or heavily subsidised for those on lower income. The café will serve fresh, affordable food, enabling those who eat by themselves day after day to share a meal with others. We are working closely with local hostels and schools to make sure that the new community centre building becomes an essential support service for people who find daily life challenging.
The centre will have a sports hall, large and adaptable enough to host job fairs and concerts, gym activities, table tennis and community meetings, and several rooms/offices which can be used for classes or rented out to tenants who will provide benefit to the community.
All of this will be operated largely by franchisees, but, as we did in our old building, we will ensure that whatever is offered is offered at prices which our community can afford. We are intending that the new Centre should be open seven days a week right through the day and evening. This will require an increase in our staffing levels and recruitment will commence in the next few months.
We expect all this to cost up to £600,000 and this is our funding challenge. We have so far accumulated £200,000 in cash and now am on the look out for funding of the balance from Foundations, Trusts, families and individuals. (which could come with name recognition for part of the Centre). If any readers can assist or know of an organisation who can assist or who is interested in working with us, please get in touch with me on 07918633821 or our Treasurer, Stephen Hodge, on 0776850299 or our fundraising adviser, Justina Forristal, at Justina@hncc.org.uk. Our Annual Report and Audited Accounts to 31st March 2021 were published last month and if you would like to review them and our financial position please contact Stephen Hodge on firstname.lastname@example.org