Chronological Sequence of Events
The following information was extracted from AGM reports and Management Committee Minutes.
The 1st Annual Report was introduced by the Chairman of the Association, Norman Smith, who gave his thanks to the Greater London Council, Inner London Education Authority, Lewisham Borough Council, Sports Council, Federation of Boys Clubs, the Downham Community Workshop Project and numerous Council Officers who supported the development of the Wesley Halls Community Centre. He also thanked the Methodist Church authorities who had been “extremely patient” in the years of lengthy negotiations in transferring the lease of the property to the Community Association.
Norman Smith bitterly complained about the “mindless vandalism by the young people”.
Catherine McKinnon was appointed as the second manager of Wesley Halls. The first manager was employed for few weeks only, and after an altercation at a Management Committee meeting, the Chairman sacked the Manager. The Manager, however, fought his case through an Industrial Tribunal and won. Nevertheless, he did not return to Wesley Halls and Catherine McKinnon took up the post.
The Chairman again complained about “thieving and mindless vandalism”.
The Inner London Education Authority seconded to Wesley Halls a full-time youth worker, Arthur Woodgate, Arthur reported that his membership of 47 young people had cleared out “the old church” and that he, together with older unemployed members, used the centre during the day. Their visits very quickly developed into voluntary work sessions and they helped Norman Smith to put up security grills and replace broken windows.
Norman Smith became the Mayor of Lewisham and could not give all his time to the Centre although he remained on the committee and continued to cut the grass and repair broken windows. Philip Hendry, the Vicar of St. Barnabas Church, was appointed as the Management Committee’s new chairman.
Norman Smith was again elected as the Chairman.
The Urban Aid funding expired but after many months of uncertainty the Lewisham Borough Council decided to fund the Centre albeit at much reduced grants. The ILEA and the GLC also helped to fund the Centre.
Unfortunately there were no records available.
Joyce Blackman was elected as Chair of the Management Committee because Norman Smith was by this time a Mayor of Lewisham for the 2nd time round and he did not have the time to commit himself to the Centre.
Catherine McKinnon left for personal reasons and the Centre remained without a manager for six months. Joyce Blackman, the chair of the Management Committee held the fort until a new manager was appointed.
Libby Dunn was appointed as Manager.
Kristina Green was appointed Chair of the Management Committee.
More efficient and effective finance and administrative systems were set up.
Several members from the Leemore Centre (Social Services’ provision which was later renamed ‘Lifestyles’) unofficially started using the Centre’s facilities.
April 1990 saw the dissolution of ILEA (Inner London Education Authority).
The first alarm system was installed following a series of break-ins. Lots of fundraising from trusts commenced in order to fund building improvements and to buy much needed furniture and equipment for the user groups. Health and Safety redecoration works took place (finances permitting) and the physical environment was greatly improved.
Vandals caused much damage to the roof. Surprisingly the Borough’s Contractors also caused lot of damage to the roof when they carried out shoddy and unsatisfactory repair work. The bad workmanship was discovered by chance by other workers.
The Centre’s management begun to shape up. All user groups received contracts. Members of staff received personal Job Descriptions and Contracts of Employment. Grievance and disciplinary procedures were also introduced. The Management Committee adopted an Equal Opportunity Policy and the Centre’s Constitution was updated.
The Centre was re-named Downham Community Centre (Wesley Halls) instead of Wesley Halls Centre in order to raise the Centre’s profile near the top of the telephone book; thus hoping that prospective hirers would see the Centre before others. This proved to be a very successful strategy.
This year witnessed two tragedies -
Sadly, Norman Smith, suddenly and unexpectedly died. He collapsed and died while he was locking up St. Barnabas Church Hall.
Kathleen Willis also passed away after a long illness. She was a Committee Member for many years and she also helped to organise the Luncheon Club.
The halls were flooded because of torrential rains. The wooden floors in the top and middle halls had to be replaced. Fortunately, the repair was paid for by insurance. All groups co-operated to keep disruption to a minimum and the Centre remained open for business throughout the works.
The Southern Team (for people with learning difficulties) later renamed Lifestyles officially adopted the Centre as their community base.
The Community Service (people on probation) erected a chain-linked fence around the Centre to improve ‘Health and Safety’ of children during their summer play schemes.
Great changes happened in the office of reorganisation and redecoration – AND something else happened that changed the office life forever - We have purchased a C O M P U T E R.
1994/95 - The sports hall had extensive re-plastering done to the arches to eradicate wet rot.
The Community Service people have concreted a new path and a ramp so from thereon people in wheelchairs could access the large hall.
The Social Service’s Southern Team had adopted a new name “Lifestyles”.
New signboards were erected.
Libby and Kristina attended the Council’s training sessions to learn how to complete the National Lottery’s grant application forms. During the training sessions the trainers stressed that submitting an application form to the Lottery Board was a lottery in itself. Nevertheless the Management Committee and the Manager had great hopes and plans for the Centre. Thereafter the form took many days to complete. Needless to say the Centre did not receive a grant and everyone was greatly disappointed.
The Youth Service was under review by external consultants and by Community Education Lewisham.
A project for young people painted two murals on the outside walls. The work of the project and the murals were later that year featured on television.
The Centre had an arson attack, which caused much fire and water damage to the roof, Lifestyles office, corridor and the WC.
The Centre was re-wired, with modern up-to-date lighting, at a cost in the region of £40,000. The re-wiring was grant aided by the Lewisham Borough Council.
Sections of the Sports Hall ceiling started to fall down. For Health and Safety reasons the Sports’ Hall was out-of-bounds for months. Eventually the ceiling was replastered. The work was paid for by a grant from the Downham SRB (Single Regeneration Budget) funding body and the Lewisham Community Affairs department.
A sliding partition was erected in the middle hall, thus increasing the range of parallel activities that could be undertaken in the hall at the same time.
Sadly, in August 2000 Tom Mansell died. Tom was a treasurer and a Management Committee member as well as the treasurer of the Youth Club.
Negotiations for renewal of the lease commenced. Libby Dunn, the manager, left for personal reasons. Kristina Green held to fort for 3 months.
The Management Committee negotiated a new 20 year lease.
Cliff Shirley took up the position as the Centre Manager. Initially his appointment was on the basis of free secondment from Barclays Bank. After this initial six months trial period he was confirmed in his position as a full time employee of the centre.
A substantial grant was received from Downham Pride (Government money to enable regeration of the area). This money enabled the Centre to make many improvements. A fencing was erected around the perimeter of the site with substantial gates. A CCTV equipment was for the first time installed at the property . The Centre was redecorated throughout.
For the 1st time since its conception the Centre was not vandalised which must have been due to the new security system.
The Centre was used as a Polling Station for the first time which enabled local schools to stay open.
The Centre was used for the first time as the focal point of the Downham Celebrated Day.
Following a number of troublesome functions the Centre ceased offering the Halls for private hire from 1.1.02
Manual bookkeeping records were transferred to a computerised system which was developed by John Green.
The main ladies and gents toilets were demolished, refurbished and extended.
The kitchen was redecorated and the layout was reorganised.
An electronic door entry system was installed in the reception and at the middle hall.
The repainting of the outside of the building commenced.
The International Women’s Week and the Black History Month celebrations were held at the Centre.