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Hocking Hall: Holloway’s ‘really precious’ community space is fundraising for renovations

PUBLISHED: 13:15 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 18:04 10 October 2018

Islington Mayor standing outside Hocking Hall. Picture: Whittington Park Community Association

Islington Mayor standing outside Hocking Hall. Picture: Whittington Park Community Association

Archant

A “really precious” Holloway community centre is fund-raising for its first refurbishment since the 1970s – and Jeremy Corbyn has backed its campaign.

Hocking Hall dancers. Picture: Whittington Park Community AssociationHocking Hall dancers. Picture: Whittington Park Community Association

The Whittington Park Community Association (WPCA) has already banked 78 per cent of the cash needed to finance the £1.2million project, but it needs to raise another £50,000 within 90 days if Hocking Hall, in Yerbury Road, is to be restored. This has been dubbed the 50:90 campaign.

Hocking Hall was erected in the 1800s as part of All Saints Church. But in 1972, the WCPA was founded and its members converted the building into the Whittington Park Community Centre.

Loan Tran, of WCPA, told the Gazette: “Community space is harder and harder to come by, so we want these spaces to be available for future generations.

“We have hosted hundreds of birthdays, parties, wedding receptions, wakes and dance nights over the years.

The Whittington Park Community Association Festival in 1978. Picture: Whittington Park Community AssociationThe Whittington Park Community Association Festival in 1978. Picture: Whittington Park Community Association

“And I would like to think that the legacy of these renovations means it [Hocking Hall] will still be used in 100 years time.”

Loan, 58, added: We formed because local residents wanted to improve the area,

“One of the first thing we [WCPA] did was build the adventure playground, and it is recorded that crime fell as a result.”

She explained the centre now needs a total refurbishment, including insulation work, structural repairs, and installing a lift to improve accessibility.

A concert at the adventure playground during a WCPA festival in the 1970s, with Hocking Hall in the background. Picture: WCPAA concert at the adventure playground during a WCPA festival in the 1970s, with Hocking Hall in the background. Picture: WCPA

“The upper hall has a beautiful lit up space with a view looking out onto the park from its windows,” said Loan.

“That’s why it’s so important we get a lift so everyone can access this area.”

When asked what role the WPCA plays in the community, Loan said: “We are here for people at every stage of their life and have been for the past 46 years.

“I feel very strongly about preserving communal spaces because there is so much division these days, so anywhere that allows the people to come together is really precious.”

The centre caters for people of all ages, running a nursery alongside lunch clubs, gardening projects and countless classes.

A youth club for 12- to 19-year-olds launched at Hocking Hall this year, and Loan says central government cuts make these facilities more vital than ever to the community.

“The centre has been used by families and people from the area for generations, said Loan. “It’s an important part of this area.”

According to WCPA, which is also a registered charity, some 800 people use Hocking Hall’s facilities every week.

In promotion of their 50/90 campaign, WCPA members are throwing a fun day at the hall from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday.

The event takes place just after the group’s annual general meeting, and will offer free activities like ballroom dance, zumba and tai chi.

Labour leader and Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn said: “Having used and loved the Whittington Park Community Centre for many years I strongly support the 50:90 campaign.

“Centres are the life of any community – they provide a place to meet, support each other, hold special events and a chance to socialise. They can change and improve all our lives. All the best to the Whittington.”

Whittington Park was created in 1954 and 23 years later WCPA was formed in protest at its further expansion at the expense of housing.

There had been a high level of poverty in the area after the Second World War, with buildings bombed-out and crime on-the-rise.

The erosion of housing in the neighbourhood was accelerated by Sir Patrick Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan of 1944, which led to demolished and occupied homes, in what is now the park, being designated as open space.

Neighbours were faced with eviction and feared being displaced from the community. WCPA was born in resistance.

It ran an annual festival there between 1973 and the late 1980s, which is reported to have attracted up to 10,000 people,

A WCPA newsletter from October 1975 noted: “1,057 people signed a petition organised by local residents in association with the WPCA to oppose the council’s proposals for the further extension of Whittington Park, which would require demolition of houses in Foxham Road, in Beversbrook Road and in Yerbury Road.”

The campaign’s success limited the park to 10 acres.

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