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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

From Haringey Council website

Better space and facilities for local people could be at the centre of Haringey Council proposals to transform a deteriorating Harringay building into a vibrant arts and culture community hub.

The council wants to improve facilities for voluntary and community groups at the Chestnuts Community Centre in St Ann’s Road and encourage more residents to get involved in local activities.

Consultation with regular users of the building on what improvements they would like to see in any refurbishment will begin in early December.

The centre, parts of which are in a poor condition, will temporarily close at the end of the year to enable the council to undertake a building survey and ensure any necessary repair work is carried out.

Councillor Jason Arthur, Cabinet Member for Resources and Culture, said:

“We know that local people and voluntary groups value having high-quality space for clubs, activities and meetings, and we support their ambitions.

“We want to hear from those who use the centre on how we can improve it to create a modern hub with first-class facilities and expanded opportunities at the heart of the community.”

The council will work closely with regular users of the centre to find alternative locations while the survey and work are carried out.

For more information on the project and the support on offer, please contact the council’s Community Buildings team on chestnutsyoursay@haringey.gov.uk

Photo by Alan Stanton on Flickr - click to view on Flickr

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Interesting announcement given that the demolition of the park pavilion is to begin this month. So maybe a good idea to integrate any ideas into the wider improvements in the park. 

I look at the building, as I do twice daily, and see it as under utilised. It doesn't really have a great relationship with the park given that it's large windowless walls and the back is often dominated by the bins. This is a shame as there are events that take place outside in the summer months. Shouldn't be too hard as it is a steel portal frame by the looks of it. So strip out the block work in favour of glazed openings. Know security will be a concern but this seems to have been overcome at the Lordships Eco Hub with the attractive metal gating. 

It would good if parking issues could be resolved and enforced. Often certain groups of people see fit to park in the park churning up the verges and blocking paths. 

Could the theatre space be retained, arts is where our children's assets are in Tottenham, I would love to reestablish under 9's, under 11's, and under 13's cricket for boys and girls, Highgate and Ali Pali cricket clubs could mentor the early stages, I've been assisting cricket coaching over the last two years for this purpose, but a level two coach is key, plus support from parents. I love cricket as it is a Commonwealth sport, so has a broad cultural base, I'm also very interested in introducing the sport to cultural groups never exposed to the sport. I would love to take up bowls on an astro lane, to continue a sport that has no age barrier and no physical discrimination, this sport could be great for community and health for all.

At the moment the park is a bog, drainage is not up to it, Finsbury Park along Endymion Rd is a pond, Herringbone drainage needs to be installed, and one sport should not dominate the opportunities our parks provide

Dear Matthew, I agree it would be great to have more and varied sports going on in the park and community Centre. There used to be an astro turf cricket strip in the centre of the park but it was removed as it was rarely used. Do go along to one of the forthcoming Centre consultation events, and reply to the consultation online to share your ideas. I agree that Chestnuts Park is very boggy again and needs new drainage installed. Originally we understand it was a watercress farm. About 18 years ago LBH installed extensive drainage in the main field - they had to do it twice for it to work. Although the field was pretty good for a few years those ditches are now collapsing, and it all needs redoing. It's in the sights of the Friends of the Park and will be included in the next update of the Park masterplan wishlist, and we'll be supporting the parks service/campaigning for this getting a budget for it to be done. You can also contact parks direct about a maintenance issue like this via https://eforms.secure.haringey.gov.uk/ufs/ufsmain?esessionid=FF4126...

I've just come back from one of the LBH consultation events about the future of the Community Centre, and centre users mentioned that there are also areas in front of the Centre which need better drainage. Added to this, when the Centre is renovated I imagine that better mains drainage will also need to be installed.  

Ceri, Chair, Friends of Chestnuts Park

I just replied to this post, but my reply disappeared from my screen, so here goes again. Apols if it appears twice. 

A group of current users of the centre have been meeting for a few weeks and are, I understand, planning to put proposals to the council for a continuation of the centre as a community centre without any period of closure. I am not involved with that group myself, but some members of Friends of Chestnuts Park have attended some of the meetings. I have been in contact with Yvonne Field, who is chairing that group. I also emailed the council's chestnutsyoursay consultation and received the following reply about the timeline for the proposed council consultation: 

"From: Layne Jennifer [mailto:Jennifer.Layne2@haringey.gov.uk] On Behalf Of Chestnutsyoursay
Sent: 03 November 2014 18:28
To: 'Ceri Williams'
Subject: RE: time line for consultation

 Dear Ms Williams,

 Consultation will be in December, with exact dates/venue/times to be announced and publicised shortly.  In the mean time, I will add you to my database so that you are kept informed of key dates/events.

 Kind regards


 Jennifer Layne

Community Buildings Officer

Corporate Property and Major Projects

Planning, Regeneration & Development

As someone who lives next to the centre, the main thing they need to do is soundproof it so when they have events than go on until 4am it doesn't keep local residents awake. I welcome thought of a community space with a range of activities but this building really isn't fit for purpose. Rooms inside are small and the building is falling apart and looks shabby.
How will potential user groups have their views about this building and access to it viewed transparently? Liz


This is really important news. Chestnuts Community and Arts Centre was originally created by a large group of local residents acting as a steering group between 1980 - 1987 and then it became a fully fledged community arts centre. The history is interesting involving an old large house, which was originally going to be the arts centre which was destroyed by lightning, together with a decontamination unit with very thick walls that was incorporated into the innovative design. The large roof spanned over the unit and that is why there is an upper floor on the left hand side of the building and not one on the right. There were over 150 people in the steering group and regular attendance at meetings was between 30-40 people with lots of sub-group meetings in between. I had the pleasure of being chair for most of the time. The steering group included local people from many backgrounds and ages and local artists. We had lots of dreams for the activities that would go on there but for a variety of reasons including later management and cutbacks most did not come to fruition. However, it has managed to continue to function over the years. Originally, there were several members of staff and sessional workers employed there. 

It will be wrong if only those who presently use the centre are consulted. There are many local people who were involved who had lots of ideas and worked hard to get the building in the first place. Some are still living nearby and are leaving fulltime work and want to return to community activities. There is a great need for cultural and participatory arts to flourish locally. Last Saturday I was one of the presenters at TEDx Tottenham and my idea  was to enable everyone to have an interest outside their home where they could meet like-minded people and add meaning, purpose and  enjoyment to their lives.

The original development plan was to have a fully functioning arts and community centre for all with intergenerational and age specific activities locally. When the building opened there was a youth room, a general activities space, a café including breastfeeding space, and a  bar and meeting area and office area on the ground floor. On the first floor there was a cinema space that doubled as a meeting room, an arts room with screen-printing equipment, a photographic space and a dance studio. Over the years the room use changed but the potential is still there.  

The reason there are no windows on the side facing the park has nothing to do with safety but because the decontamination unit walls were so thick that it was impossible at the time to do much with them.  

We had two different architects who worked with us over the years. It was a wonderful project to be involved in and community participation was high. In those days there was more funding and resources available from central government. (To demolish the unit would have cost more! and the burnt out house had to be demolished, so a new building was cheaper.)  The steering group worked closely with the Haringey Community Development Unit.

It would be fantastic if the community was able to create an Arts "Fun Palace" returning it to the community which needs such a local resource. Lots of people are around during the daytime as increasing numbers of people are working from home, are now leaving their fulltime careers to enter the next phase of their lives. There are also many young people who are still not being given the opportunity to get work and there are parents with young children etc. We could have a thriving local centre bringing people together and there is a great need to have attractive places where people can meet and socialise together. So here is a golden opportunity to make sure that Chestnuts remains a place for local people and thrives again. It could also make links with other local facilities such as the Bernie Grant Arts Centre and Chances in Tottenham High Road and other local community centres. It  will be damning and a great shame if the community loses out when so much time, effort and creativity went into creating the concept and the building. It was a lovingly designed building and it is essential it is brought back to a fully functioning local resource again.

In anticipation and ever hopeful


If it closed completely for building work, users would tend to drift away - so I like the alternative proposal to keep it open while alterations are carried out.

It is a fantastic building with a variety of different sized rooms, in a great park.

See below for update I've just sent to Friends of Chestnuts Park, plus attachments about the Chestnuts People event on 13 Dec, and the letter sent by LBH to Chestnuts Centre users yesterday. If these two pdf attachments don't post successfully, I'll try to convert them to Jpegs and repost. 

"Dear FoC members

Lots going on in relation to Chestnuts Community Centre.  I don’t claim to know everything about what’s happening, but here’s an attempt at a summary:  

Chestnuts People - The group of Centre users and other local people called Chestnuts People chaired by Yvonne Field have organised a community led consultation event on Sat 13 Dec, see attached for the flyer. Do come along if you can. Chestnuts People are also having a meeting at the Centre with the council officers leading on the Centre this Tuesday at 7pm – 8pm. I am hoping to go along to this as well, and I’m also meeting personally with Yvonne the day after this. Chestnuts People are tweeting as https://twitter.com/ChestnutsPeople and have organised a petition asking the council to allow the centre to remain open, run by Chestnuts People, without any closure period https://www.change.org/p/save-chestnuts. It already has over 600 signatures, and all the comments reiterate the value that local people place on having a community centre here.

LBH - the attached letter from the Council which has apparently been sent yesterday to current users of the Centre, repeats the council’s commitment to taking the keys back from the current Centre management cttee on 31 Dec as agreed in court last July, then to have a closure period for repairs and improvements but promising to keep the Centre as a community centre or “hub”. A list of alternative N15 venues for hire was attached, and user groups asked to use those during the interim closure period. The letter says that there will be council led consultation events held at Chestnuts Centre at the following times: Mon 8 Dec 1pm – 4pm; Wed 10 Dec 10am – 1pm; Sat 24 Jan 11am – 2pm.  As I understand it LBH then intend to run a tender process inviting groups or partnerships to submit proposals to run the centre. Chestnuts People would presumably be eligible to apply alongside other bidders. LBH say the tenders will be judged in line with the Haringey Voluntary Sector Strategy. They also intend to set up a consultation website, but in the meantime are taking comments via the email address chestnutsyoursay@haringey.gov.uk

Haringey online – a conversation on the consultation has also opened on Haringey online http://www.harringayonline.com/forum/topics/revamp-planned-for-ches...

Friends of Chestnuts Park have always prioritised our role as friends of the open space at Chestnuts and everything that affects this. However, the Community Centre is an important local resource. I know that FoC members have a range of views on what should happen with regard to the management and leadership of the Centre and we are not all in agreement on this, which is fine. But I believe we are all united in the desire to see it as a community resource, run by local community members and open to all. As Chair, I would encourage all of you to attend as many of the meetings above as possible, to support and get involved, and to make your views known online and in person.  

here are the attachments to the above post, saved now as jpegs

Hi Chair of Friends of Chestnuts Park

I was interested to read your message above and your growing interest in Chestnuts Arts and Community Centre. I am a bit surprised because I sent you a message a while ago about the centre and I did not receive any kind of reply. So, if you are now getting interested in the building and want to ensure it has a future you are very welcome to contact me to share some ideas and get some more background information and future possibilities. I am very committed to make sure Chestnuts remains a local community resource (see above) - 

Best wishes


Hi Jackie, Extremely sorry that you sent a message to us a while ago which got no reply. I'm not aware of us receiving it, we try to be pretty good at replying. Have sent you a connection request and would be happy to now be in touch directly. Ceri



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