By Pat Tulloch

Outside of community centre in Foley Street
The new Fitzrovia Community Centre in Foley Street.

After nearly fifteen years, the Fitzrovia Community Centre (FCC) is ready to open its doors to the community. Part of an ‘extended family’ of stewards, community developers and entrepreneurs, the aspiration of the centre is to contribute to the well-being and social good of the area.

The Centre will house a range of services and organisations, including West End Children Centre, currently running a popular Stay and Play, parent and toddler group. And negotiations are underway with Kids Company, a charity supporting disadvantaged children and Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association, who we hope will also be permanently based on site.

Since December, we have been testing out the Centre with the West End School of Theatre Arts (WESTA), Society Speakers, for those interested in developing their public speaking skills. Exemplar are also using the space for community consultation.
During the Easter break there will be play groups. Future bookings include children’s parties, Tai Chi classes, yoga, permanent rehearsal space for a community choir, a charity strictly come dancing event, society speakers competition and a possible photography exhibition, as part of the London Festival Exhibition. Currently, a 7 week consultation of the Area Action Plan for Fitzrovia is underway; the consultation also includes 2  drop-in sessions.

However, the real challenge for FCC will be the need to strike a difficult balance between achieving financial stability and delivering community benefit. Behind the glamorous facade of the beautiful architecture, the task in hand will be in managing the Centre as a community asset; one that brings together, ideas, investment, opportunities, people, and finance. This will require in addition to voluntary and community action, the skills of good governance, capacity and leadership if we are to ensure Fitzrovia is not saddled with a building and heavy maintenance costs not suitable for community use.

On behalf of the trustees, I would like to thank all those past and present for getting us to this point, especially to Helena Roden, Project Coordinator, whose position came to an end recently, and Dr June Crown who has now stepped down as our Chairperson and has agreed to become the Centre’s first Patron. And to our colleagues in LB Camden without whom there would be no building, and for the recent donations that helped us to furnish the Centre. Thanks again for the warm welcome; it feels great to be here.

We are currently recruiting for a Facilities Manager and hope to open our doors on 16 April 2012. For more information about the Centre, please visit the website or ring Pat on 020 7580 8680.

Pat Tulloch is Director of Fitzrovia Community Centre.