Community centres working together

  • Community Centre Week is an annual celebration of the work carried out by community centres up and down the country
  • This year’s theme is neighbourliness
  • We meet two centres in north London that share resources, organise events and support each other

The sense of neighbourliness is growing day-by-day in the north London borough of Islington – thanks in no small part to a joint initiative between two local organisations.

Founding members of the Octopus Community Network – which connects 14 community centres in Islington – Hornsey Lane Estate Community Association and Caxton House Community Centre are individual charities with their own managers, staff and trustees.

However, these two Community Hubs and neighbourhood partners of Islington Council work closely together to identify and meet the needs of the local people they serve. This enables them to develop more-focused projects, as well as influencing and inspiring a much wider area.

We met with centre managers Irene (Hornsey Lane Estate) and Paul (Caxton House) to find out how they support each other and also work alongside similar charities in the borough.

Building partnerships

Octopus Community Network has fostered a real culture of collaboration among its members, and it was this that inspired close neighbours Hornsey Lane Estate and Caxton House to work together – an initiative that has proved to be beneficial both financially and in terms of resource management.

Irene explains: “Octopus has helped us all to move away from the old mentality of competing for funding. We are no longer closed shops, fighting for funds or audiences within our communities. Instead, we are now able to listen and learn from each other. We visit each other’s community centres as often as we can, and swap ideas and tips.”

Paul agrees: “Community centres in the borough are able to save money through shared purchasing schemes, as well as producing shared bids for funding. But most of all, being part of Octopus has given us the opportunity to develop relationships with our fellow organisations, build trust and explore ways of working closer together.”

Shared resources and activities

Both Hornsey Lane Estate and Caxton House are thriving community centres that provide a vast range of services for local people.

Hornsey Lane Estate runs a full-time nursery and a range of out-of-school activities for children. Older people are catered for with a free lunch club and line dancing. And the centre’s weekly table-tennis sessions have been warmly received, with more than 40 local families taking the opportunity to play ping-pong while getting to know their neighbours.

Caxton House, meanwhile, offers a programme of children’s play sessions, along with handicraft classes and other activities designed to encourage participants to live well, develop new skills and ultimately make new friends. Social isolation and loneliness are big issues in the borough, and the centre is proud of its initiatives to encourage sociability.

However, these two proactive community organisations have shown that, by joining forces, they can achieve even more.

So far, the fruits of their collaboration have included annual events such as the Hillrise Summer/Winter Festivals, and The Great Get Together; the sharing of resources including tables, music, barbecues, gazebos and even volunteers; and the promotion of each other’s events and activities.

The initiative appears to be driving a real sense of community, both between the two centres and in the local area at large. And in a country where 73% of people don’t even know their neighbours’ names, that can only be a positive thing.