CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

The loss of the community centre is a real tragedy

24 September, 2020

Kingsgate Community Centre

• YOUR Comment is right, the Kingsgate had been driven into crisis long before Covid-19, (Community centres shouldn’t be businesses, they’re lifelines, September 17).

As a member of the 50-year running, “Rag Bag” textile and weaving group, we were facing closure anyway. Our fees for room and storage had increased astronomically but Covid-19 was clearly the last straw, not just for us but for the whole centre.

Also mentioned in your piece, I am one of those both older, vulnerable, women, and with mental health problems, who found companionship, learned new skills and found a sense of family at Kingsgate Community Centre, in the art room.

Jenny Lewenstein, who organised and supported our shared learning, had been running the group for many years, voluntarily, for the joy of weaving; to provide a place where these skills could be shared, learned and developed in a joyful and social environment
every Wednesday before the costs increased.

Between us we are still trying to find storage for the looms, materials and huge array of equipment, books and other items accumulated over the years.

Once broken up this collection can never be brought together again even if the Kingsgate does eventually go back to being a community centre. Something very special will have been lost for ever, friendships and knowledge not least of it.

This is only one of the groups who used the space, this has to be multiplied several times over for all those who depended on the support of Kingsgate.

I feel sad for all the workers there losing their jobs overnight. It is a tragedy in so many ways, to so many, who have found the community centre a valuable and life-affirming resource.

Blame must be placed at the feet of government austerity, crippling local government’s capacity to invest in, and support, these community assets. Kingsgate is the second community centre in the area to go broke and close, WHCA buildings were sold off in Mill Lane, NW6, a few years ago.

I know my mental health, wellbeing and capacity to engage in safe, supported, socialising has been damaged. I can’t swim on the Heath and I have no weekly textile workshop to go to.

For me these two aspects of engagement were crucial to my wellbeing, saving the NHS many thousands in fewer crisis admissions, and helping to give my life value and meaning.

ELIZABETH JOHNSTON
Address supplied

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