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Lockdown cash crisis leads to closure of long-standing community centre

Disappointment among regular users as Kingsgate Community Centre stays closed

22 September, 2020 — By Tom Foot

USERS of a community centre which has served West Hampstead for more than 100 years have been left shocked by an announcement that it is to close.

The Kingsgate Community Centre had largely relied financially on groups hiring out the building in Kingsgate Road, but said this revenue had been wiped out during the Covid-19 lockdown. Directors at the Kingsgate Community Association said they could also not see how the Victorian building could be easily adapted for events and activities.

They have now filed for liquidation and the nursery on the site, one of its main sources of income, will also remain closed. Camden Council, which owns the building, said it was determined that the site would still be used for community purposes. But groups have been told to remove equipment from the building by next Friday.

It has been home to everyone from support groups to dance classes, and played host to countless community – and political – meetings over the years. It also had a popular independent cafe, while the community centre had been helping with food emergencies during the pandemic.

Peter Lush, Kilburn Older Voices Exchange coordinator, said: “We are very disappointed to hear about the closure, as were many local groups and the community in that area. We hope that the building continues in community use, run by local people.”

Clarence Jackman, who lives in Kilburn, said: “I have personally zused it over the years for three different activities, plus frequented it for one off events. Are all community centres going to fall victim to Covid?”

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said: “One of the many tragedies of this pandemic is that the Kingsgate Community Centre has not been able to provide its excellent community services, and I’m very concerned by news that the association that runs it has gone into liquidation.

“I will be working with Camden Council to make sure that the families who relied on this centre are supported and the building can continue to serve the local community as best as possible.”.

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq

In a statement, the board of directors said the decision had been made with “deep regret”, adding all staff had been made redundant. It thanked staff, particularly manager Marie Griffin who was described as having “exemplary levels of compassionate professionalism”.

“After assessing the position we sadly felt that the inherited operational and financial model of the charity is no longer sustainable,” the board said. “The impact of the loss of this revenue during lockdown has been critical.”

The Association was formed in 1982 by a group who wanted to transform what was then described as a derelict building. Camden Council said it had been supporting voluntary groups through the pandemic, offering rent support and being flexible on arrears, while investing in £5million in the sector.

New cabinet councillor Anna Wright said: “Kingsgate Community Association were a highly valued and respected community partner – and their services meant a huge amount to our communities. Today is a really sad day and is yet another reminder of the economic as well as the health impacts of the pandemic.

“My message to all our residents and voluntary and community organisations at this uncertain time is that Camden is committed to supporting you through these hard times.”

The council said it is offering advice for parents now without nursery places.

 

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