restricted access The Week’s “Good Cause” Appeal: “The North Kensington Community Centre"
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[ 407 The Week’s “Good Cause” Appeal: “The North Kensington Community Centre”1 In a remote corner of North Kensington near the line of the Great Western Railway, over against Kensal Green, there are living, in several blocks of Housing Trust Flats, some two thousand adults and three thousand children . Most of you never heard of this district, until you read of the visit of the Duchess of Kent a few days ago, an area you can walk round in ten minutes.2 These are people of good London breed.3 Before they were moved to these flats, they were living in Kensington in overcrowded decaying houses – many of them in damp sunless basements. Very few realise what a struggle the London poor will make to live decently in such surroundings. Now, these five thousand have a better opportunity. This is a settlement, a colony which will soon be much larger when the new Peabody buildings are ready. We are trying to turn it into a community. The Community Centre, founded two years ago, built on a plot provided by the Borough Council, is an attempt to give these people a chance to become a community. It is a beautifully kept building: as the paid staff must be small, the people do a great deal of the work without pay. It is a co-operative centre. The people pay fixed small fees, and contribute towards the activities. You must not expect them to contribute much. The blight of this neighbourhood is partly unemployment, but largely casual employment. I cannot tell you a fraction of what goes on in that building. If you visit it yourselves the Warden, Miss Jenkinson, will be glad to show it to you. It is the first experiment of the kind for the tenants of large blocks of buildings, and it works, very successfully, in co-operation with the Borough Council and the L.C.C. There is a Council Clinic in the building. L.C.C. classes are conducted in some of the rooms. But the greater part of the activities are run by the members themselves. One important activity, which I hope may be further developed, is the production of plays, both by adults and by children . And these people do have children. They are very attractive children as you would see if you visited the centre in the afternoon where there is likely to be a children’s party. If you went in the evening, you would probably find, besides classes and indoor games, a dance for the young people or a social for their elders. Essays, Reviews, Commentaries, and Public Letters: 1937 408 ] I am appealing for a particular need: a new hall. None of the rooms in the Centre is big enough for the purposes it has to serve. The new hall would have all sorts of uses, especially the gymnasium work which we cannot have at present. It would release some of the other rooms for new purposes: there is one small, quiet room that might well be converted into something that any Community Centre ought to have – a chapel. The building that we have cost £14,000 and the money has been provided. There is just enough ground left for the new hall. It will cost £5,000. That is just one pound each for the health and happiness of the 5,000 present inhabitants. It is not a large sum, per human being, is it? If you saw the children you would think them worth a pound each. If you will help us to raise this £5,000 you will be helping five thousand of our best citizens in their ambition to build themselves into a community . I do not know of any five thousand people more ready to do their part.4† And in helping this Centre, so promisingly begun, you will at the same time be making more possible the starting of similar centres elsewhere . It is not a cut and dried idea: we must let it develop. I appeal in the name of our metropolitan population. I appeal for the future of a great part of England. But especially for three thousand of our best children, and for those to come whom I hope to know. Please send your contribution (for which I will thank you personally) to me “T. S. Eliot, North Kensington Community Centre, London, W. 10.”5 Notes 1. Broadcast on 24 Jan 1937 at 8:45 p.m. on the BBC...