Leading stammering centre to take over empty Finsbury building

A BUILDING that has lain empty for two years is to be taken over by a charity backed by actor Michael Palin.

The Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood has agreed to buy the empty property in Pine Street, Finsbury, in order to house its Michael Palin Centre – which treats stammering children from Islington and beyond.

The building had been bought by NHS Islington from Islington Council back in 2008.

NHS Islington originally planned to refurbish the building and use it to house health services when it sold off the next-door Finsbury Health Centre.

But after a massive campaign from residents, who were determined to stop the Grade I-listed Finsbury Health Centre from falling into the hands of developers, NHS Islington decided not to sell up.

And because of the tight financial climate, NHS Islington also no longer has the money to do up the empty building in Pine Street.

NHS Islington now plans to sell the building to the Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood for �350,000. The association would then be able to use a �500,000 Government grant to refurbish the building and provide a new home for its Michael Palin Centre.

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Actor and travel presenter Michael Palin, who played a stammering character called Ken in the film A Fish Called Wanda, and whose own father suffered from a stammer all his life, has long been a supporter of the centre.

But at present, the flagship facility is having to work out of the run-down Finsbury Health Centre.

Bryan Dutton, chairman of trustees at the Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood, said: “This plan will allow us to deliver more and yet better services to children who stammer in a modern environment.”

Helen Patterson, chief executive of NHS Islington, added: “The Michael Palin Centre has a national and international reputation for its groundbreaking work and its leadership in the field of stammering and we are pleased to be involved in this proposal.”

The �350,000 will also enable NHS Islington to do some work to the Finsbury Health Centre, which was built in 1938 by architect Berthold Lubetkin in order to bring modern healthcare to the masses and is now in desperate need of refurbishment.