Loan Tran gives an update on Whittington Park Community Association

Where on your doorstep can you find contemporary dance for over 60s, zumba, tai chi, yoga, pilates, an after-school club, nursery, a community cafe, a youth music project, an over 60s lunch club? Whittington Park Community Association (WPCA) houses all these activities and more.

Katia Lom, a local artist who works in the office, and whose oil painting of Finsbury Park decorates the cafe, recently found a treasure trove of old black and white photos and publicity from the ‘70s, hidden away in a folder in the loft. Hand-written programmes reveal three-day summer festivals with fantastically diverse acts and events – the Tavistock Wind Octet, Jazz with Jim Dvorjak, Yard of Ale competition, Miss Constantinou Dance exhibition, and Rhubarb the Clown. Photos show a thrivingcommunity with hundreds of local people participating. At its height the festivals drew more than 10,000 people! One poster read – It’s your festival – Back It! which summed up the whole community feel about these events.
A time capsule which is due to be dug up in 2023 was also planted during first the festival that took place in 1973.

A photography exhibition displaying a selection of copies of these archive photographs, along with a history of the community centre, is now on permanent display at WPCA, free to see during office hours- Mondays to Fridays 9:30am to 5pm, or by appointment outside these hours. The photographs and a host of fascinating documents have been handed over to the BishopsgateInstitute where a “WPCA Archive” has been established. Anyone can go there to see this wonderful material and many of the pictures will soon be available to view online. An article about this history will also appear in the next issue of the Journal of the Islington Archaeology & History Society, out in September.

The Bishopsgate Institute is interviewing local residents and past users of the Centre so if you know anyone who’d like to be part of this oral history project, do put them in touch with the Institutewww.bishopsgate.org.uk, or with Katia Lom at WPCA who has been developing this projectkatia@whittingtonpca.org.uk.

In June 2013 WPCA produced the Big Day Out in Whittington Park for the first timeas part of the Holloway Arts Festival and showcased many of the activities on offer at the centre. The forecourt became a performance space with hip hop dance and tai chi. Lower Hocking Hall became a venue for a wonderful mix of performances and workshops including Egyptian Dance, Love Buzz youth music, and the Dad’s Band. Picnickers sat on the slopes of the park and watched the hugely popular Dog Show organised by Hornsey Vets which attracted over 40 dogs and their owners!

The centre is one of Islington’s 12 designated community hubs and is constantly striving to be a centre where all ages can find something of interest and people can connect.Needless to say, funding is limited, and volunteers are always appreciated. If your children have started school and you’re looking for a couple of hours to volunteer as part of a really friendly team and in a community setting, WPCA is a lovely place to do that. I can honestly say that having just done a voluntary stint myself. Even a couple of hours can be valuable.

Could you play the piano, or any other musical instrument for half an hour to entertain the lunch club, or just come in and chat to some of the members? Could you come into the office and help with admin or reception? Could you do some gardening at the One O’clock which now has fragrant jasmine, honeysuckle and fruit trees, or help tend the planters around the centre? Could you help plan next year’s Big Day Out and help recreate that feel of the community pulling together and involving residents to put on a day that feels like a big party for the locality,or volunteer on the day as Aliette and other members did last year? Do you have any art materials or fabric you could donate to the over-60’s Arts and Crafts club?Do you know someone over 60 who could enjoy coming to the lunch club?

If you’d like to extend your world to connect more with the local community WPCA would love to see you. Have a look at their website, give them a ring or simply drop in!

See www.whittingtonpca.org.uk for an up to date list of activities and events or phone 0207272 1847. Follow WPCA on Twitter @WhittingtonPCA