Once upon a time, there were Women’s Centres in nearly every London borough. Then gradually over the years more and more of them closed. They could not afford market rent for premises and there were fewer and fewer grants to support their activities. Women went back to meeting in each other’s kitchens or in pubs and cafes. The links between different groups and the power and energy that comes from working together, campaigning together and creating culture together was largely lost.
We stood outside lots of buildings with our placards and our slogans. “Save the Lambeth Women’s Project” “Save the Irish Women’s Centre” “Save the Women’s Library” They all closed.
We decided there must be a better way. We thought we had to own these buildings ourselves so that they could never be taken away from us again. We spent a couple of years meeting, discussing, consulting with experts and created a new social enterprise model that would give us the Women’s Centre of our dreams.
We talked to hundreds of women and women’s groups. They told us what they would like to see in the Centre. It should be a safe, accessible, energy-efficient and beautiful building. There were a number of women’s charities looking for office space and wanting to be able to share resources and signpost to each others services. There was a big demand for hot-desking for women studying, thinking about a business start-up or just having some peaceful time to sort out their personal admin. There would have to be a creche. There would be lots of art; a gallery space for exhibitions and a stage for theatre and music. There would be a café, with quiet spaces for meetings. There would be space for older women to gather. There would be a garden for women to grow things together and a kitchen for women to cook things together. There would be meeting rooms at very affordable rates for campaign groups to book, and a resource area for printing. There would be consulting and therapy rooms for women needing support on a whole range of issues. There would be a hall so we could host conferences from across London.
So we went on a quest to look for a site; not riding through forests on white horses, but mainly through searching the internet and lobbying public bodies. In 2014 we were offered the opportunity to buy a disused car park next to a station; perfect! We agreed heads of terms, obtained a grant from the GLA, found 40 organisations to sign up to use space in the building, engaged architects, designed the scheme …. And then… calamity. A big local authority dragon appeared and set light to our project with its fiery breath. We tried to reason with the dragon, but to no avail.
Sadly we went away to look for another site. We journeyed here there and everywhere with followers becoming tired and disillusioned along the way. The paths were steep and the forests dark and the bushes thorny. But a small group of us kept the faith. Someday we WOULD find a suitable site and build our dream.
Then in the distance we saw a sign reading “WORLD PULSE”. The sign told us that our dreams could come true, that our voice mattered, that there was a whole community of women out there who could help our project happen.
So if you can help us find a suitable site to build our dreams, or want to accompany us on our ongoing journey … please email email@example.com
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