Aren’t we lucky? Those of us who live and work in Primrose Hill are part of a very special area of London. It is a sort of island. And we have a secret. There is a local charity that is engaged with and committed to the community. It runs the Centre, supports residents and groups and was the organisation that created the campaign to keep the Library. The Primrose Hill Community Association is answerable to our residents and is run by a board of 16 local people who are elected at the AGM. Every year some stand down, some stand for re-election, and new people come on board.
The PHCA is nearly 40 years old. Here is our story….
The PHCA was set up in the 1980s and given a permanent home at 29 Hopkinson’s Place, Fitzroy Road in 1978 by Camden Council. This was originally the boiler house for the Hopkinson’s Piano Factory. This area was the heart of piano manufacturing in Victorian London when a piano was as essential in family homes as a broadband connection is now, but they became less fashionable and the factory closed. How fortunate then that Camden Council were persuaded to give the building to the community rather than converting the entire site into residential dwellings. This is all thanks to the late Diana Gurney and others who saw that demolition need not be inevitable.
Primrose Hill is rich in talented neighbours who like to get involved. One of these was David Gray who, sadly, died in 2014. A gifted architect, David had the vision for the potential use of our community building and he insisted on it being conserved with the exposed brickwork and industrial heritage on show.
What we do
The Centre is run by a full-time manager and a bookkeeper who are appointed and supported by the enthusiastic volunteer Board.
The Centre is a resource for all sorts of events such as the voting place for local and general elections, films, meetings and community activities. These include the Ready-Steady-Go nursery school and Rhyme Time, the choir, yoga and talks by local experts. On Sundays the lower hall is transformed into a bar, with a pool table, reasonably-priced drinks and excellent talk of a different nature. The building is the launch-pad for many other activities that reach out into the community and you can find it on the Market Place map.
The annual fireworks display on Primrose Hill was a wonderful local fixture until its popularity caused the Royal Parks authority to end the tradition. Over 40,000 people attended one year, and created a Glasto-like mudpool all over the hill.
As you may have noticed, the park is always open and has traditional street lamps to light your way through. These benefits are both due to community-based campaigns. The PHCA arranged for the park to remain open through sit-ins and vigils in the 1980’s, while the Primrose Hill Conservation Area Advisory Committee has worked to restore the streetlights (several of these people are involved with more than one of the committees!).
In 2010, the PHCA was the organising catalyst for the library campaign and its charitable status remains the legal framework for the ongoing success of the library. It is buzzing and has diversified widely from its traditional book-borrowing raison d’etre to being the go-to place for meetings, film shows, parties and even weddings.
In recent years, community volunteers started a twice-weekly Lunch Club at the Oldfield Estate and set up a weekly ‘Open House’ on Wednesday afternoons with talks, films and slide shows, followed by tea and biscuits. There are many residents of the area who live alone or whose weekly budget is tight and we are determined to find ways to provide community-based services for them all.
Every summer sees the traditional Primrose Hill Community Fair, with Punch and Judy as well as a host of craft stalls and other attractions. And now there is On The Hill magazine, underwritten by PHCA with contributions by many of those same volunteers! The range of activities in the area is remarkable, and the What’s On section provides a valuable information service to the community and to all those who are trying to get their talk, concert or exercise class noticed.
We couldn’t do what we do without the commitment and support of volunteers. If you would like to get involved, here are some of the areas of activity that we would like help with. Please contact Mick Hudspeth at the Centre if you would like to know more about them, at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Display curator
- Evening Talks organiser
- Lunch Club helper
Primrose Hill Community Centre
29 Hopkinsons Place, off Fitzroy Road
020 7586 8327