St Catherine’s Church and the Telegraph Hill Centre are joined at the hip – physically connected to each other, and with what is achieved through the Centre and the Church working together being invaluable to so many people in this community.
Being in this place, being able to work here, has given me a sense of belonging, of community and instead of being stuck in a dark basement room I have all this light in the music studio which gives me inspiration and hope.
In the last few months the Centre and the Church have worked together in a dozen small ways, but our flagship project is Branching Out – a day of activities every Thursday aimed at older people (but not exclusively so). There’s an art class, a lunch club, exercises, book group, trips – with volunteers drawn from the local community and St Catherine’s church. It’s fun, high-quality and a much needed weekly event for older people.
Within the walls of the Centre over 1,500 “neighbours” a week can find friendship and support. It’s a place to learn, to exercise, to perform, to relax, to have fun. But there’s also plenty of help if you need it – whether it’s a gambling addiction or the Lighthouse Social Club which offers vulnerable adults lunch and company. There is space for therapists, artists and musicians: without us even mentioning the CCC Club (before and after-school club)… or the panto… or the Telegraph Hill Festival… or a venue for your 50th birthday party.
But it’s easy to take this place for granted. We come for a Pilates class week in week out and we don’t give the existence of the Centre a second’s thought. But without wishing to bang any political drum, in an age of austerity places like the Telegraph Hill Centre are closing down right, left and centre. Services to children, young people, older people, any vulnerable people, are being slashed. People’s life-lines are being cut, often with devastating results.
The Centre is NOT funded by Lewisham Council – which means whatever else we’re vulnerable to, we’re not vulnerable to cuts. The finances of the Centre are tough at times, but that sense of independence often tastes like freedom.
So how do we manage financially?
The Telegraph Hill Centre funds itself through the rental income from the clubs and lettings that meet on the ground floor and through a £30,000 per annum Community Mission Fund that comes from St Catherine’s Church. This £30k is a proportion of the rental income that is generated by the commercial lets on the upper floors of the Centre – ploughed back into the Centre, not into St Catherine’s Church – for the good of the whole community. So that the whole community has a space to know their neighbour, love their neighbour – and grow, thrive and flourish.
It’s a beacon on the Hill. Use it, love it, keep giving it a bit of your time, energy and money. Help it to shine on! Rev. Sheridan James Vicar of St Catherine’s, Hatcham
(The AGM report covers the Centre’s financial year from 1 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014)