Skip to content

Crunch time for the hall. CAN YOU HELP?!
These are the facts so far (you probably know them):

Camden council is planning to turn a beautiful and historic hall into two private houses to sell. However, they have said that they will cancel this plan if we can raise ONE AND A HALF MILLION POUNDS – by 31st July 2019 -in order to buy the hall from them. 

 ‘The People’s Gospel Mission Hall’ (lately home of the ’Fresh Youth Academy’, in Winscombe Street, London N19 5DG) dates from 1892 and for over a hundred years has been a treasured community hub providing a huge variety of activities for people of all ages and abilities.

• The hall is the only theatre space for miles around.
• It has a stage, a large screen for showing films, and its exceptionally fine acoustics have been lauded by internationally renowned musicians.
• The hall was refurbished in 2015 for hundreds of thousands of pounds.
• We think it would be an appalling act of vandalism to destroy it and a deplorable waste of taxpayers' money, particularly in these times of funding cuts and rising violent crime.
• We wish to retain the hall for community use as a thriving community arts centre.

To raise the one and a half million needs a mighty concerted effort! Can you help? Here are suggestions of how you can help if you’d like to:

* We now have a Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/The-Peoples-Hall-2302710853351628/ and a Gofundme account, the link for which is:
https://www.gofundme.com/save-the-people039s-hall

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR US TO DO IS TO GIVE EVERYONE WE’VE EVER KNOWN OR HEARD OF the GOFUNDME link in every way we can – social media - it's on our Facebook Page - or word of mouth - and ask them to give everyone THEY know the Gofundme link, so that as many people as possible who want to help the fundraising effort can do so. It doesn’t matter how little (or much) we give – everything will help. If we fail to raise the necessary amount all donors will have their money returned.

* If you, or anyone you know, is a generous private or corporate benefactor who will buy the hall for the community, or who will contribute to the one and a half million we need, that would be truly wonderful! Or perhaps you are an arts organisation or a charitable foundation who will do the same.

* Do you regularly shop at a particular supermarket / other outlet which you could ask to contribute funds?

* Would you like to be a cheery, enthusiastic PUB co-ordinator-person? So far two pubs - the Star pub (c/o Bertram Street and Chester Road) and Southampton Arms (c/o Wesleyan Place and Kentish Town Road) - are up for having a competition between pubs in the area to see who can raise most money for the hall. Would you like to co-ordinate this and stoke up enthusiasm in local pubs (between pints if needed)?

* Do you know, or know of, any local celebrities – philanthropists, media people, musicians, etc... who you would be prepared to ask either to be a sponsor/patron, or to contribute funds? You could speak or write to them on behalf of the ‘Save the People’s Hall Group’ using the information above and just tweaking it a bit to fit whoever you’re writing to. It might take a bit of research to find out where they live.

Apparently the following famous people live in the area. Maybe you know others: Naomi Daley; Akala; Miss Dynamite; Trevor Bannister; Alison Steadman; Benedict Cumberbatch; Ed Milliband; Sue Perkins (Boscastle Road); Steven Severin; Madness; Cara Theobald; Emma Thompson; Pierce Morgan; Tracey Chevalier; does Paco Pena live in the area? .....

Or can you:
* help in other ways with fundraising?
* or with admin jobs?
* Can you contribute computer skills – maybe you’re a young computer whizz with people skills and a reasonable command of English who can get your head round facebook/ twitter/ instagram... and perhaps would like helping a charity on your CV?
* Have you successfully applied to the lottery for funding and can you help us with that?

OPEN DAY AT THE HALL – COME AND PARTY!
We are having an EVENT in the hall on Sunday 16th June partly so that people can enjoy the space and partly so that potential donors can see the hall if they would like to. We need lots of help with this too.
For example:
* We would like to have live music playing throughout the event. Are you a musician and member of a chamber music group, choir, early music group, folk group, jazz group, pop group, etc., who will donate your musical abilities to the event?
* Would you donate legwork and distribute flyers?
* Will you, and/or a bakery/foodshop you know, donate sweet or savoury things to eat?
Angela Burdett-Coutts donated The People’s Gospel Mission/ Fresh Youth Academy Hall to the ‘people’. Are you an actor who would like to mingle among visitors to the event in the role of Angela Burdett-Coutts?
*  Can you bring as many people as possible to the event?
* Can you help on the day? There’ll be a lot that needs doing (holding donation buckets, moving chairs, being there chatting, eating, etc).

If you can help in any of the above ways please email Tamar Swade <tamarswade@gmail.com> so that we can all see who’s doing what and don’t duplicate unnecessarily. Thanks everyone !!!
from Tamar, on behalf of ‘Save the People’s Hall’ group. 

Further to the initial (general) meeting of the Campaign Group on 14th February 2019, the trustees appointed at that meeting have met four times, on 25th February, 15th March, 25th March and 28th March 2019. For better communication with outside parties, we decided to call ourselves the Highgate Newtown Mission Hall Group, and have discussed the steps needed to preserve The People's Gospel Mission Hall in Winscombe Street, now designated an Asset of Community Value, rather than see it turned into two terraced houses to make money for Camden Council.
Because this would involve raising money to purchase the Hall, we have adopted a more formal CIO Constitution with the same trustees, rather than having an open membership. Two further meetings have been held, one with a consultant who is helping us develop a business plan, on Wednesday 3rd April, and another with members of the Project Team at Camden Council, on on Thursday 4th April 2019.
Our next meeting was after an official viewing of the Mission Hall, in the Fresh Youth Academy foyer/cafe on Wednesday 10th April 2019.

This was a meeting of four trustees, plus three others, following up the initial meeting of the Save the Gospel Mission Hall Group held on 14th February 2019.

We reviewed the outcome of Camden Council's recognition of the the Hall on Winscombe Street as an Asset of Community Value, prior to granting of planning permission for the demolition and rebuilding of the main site of HNCC, recognising that the Hall could only be be saved from conversion into two dwelling houses if funds could be raised to purchase it.

We agreed to send an email to the Project Manager at Camden Council seeking clarification, and two of those present accepted the invitation to join as Trustees of the Group. Full notes of the meeting are available on request to supporters - go to Contact Us.

This poster was found tied to a bicycle at the top of Bertrand Street at the beginning of February 2019. Could it be connected with the punchbag support posts which have been attached to the walls on both sides of the People's Gospel Mission Hall?

Interior of Gospel Mission Hall

We understand that the Police, who have had a community base at HNCC, are offering these classes. If so, it appears that they will continue making use of the Hall during the rebuilding period. Does this also mean that Camden Council are reconsidering their plans to replace the hall by two town houses? HNCC's Trustees may not have the answer to this question so if we can get confirmation from Camden Council, we will add this information. See also, Mary Cane's letter on this subject to the Camden New Journal dated 14th February 2019


Anxieties expressed in Mary Cane's letter to the CNJ about potential damage to the walls of this ancient building are well-founded, judging by the fact that two lumps of plaster have fallen off the wall, due to enthusiastic use of the punch bag in one of the boxing sessions - see the additional Guy Ropes with hooks attached to each bracket.

Further damage to wall - see rawl-plugs coming away from the broken plaster

On Thursday 21st February 2019, we observed further damage having been caused, with the Rawl Plug holding the punch-ball bracket having come out - not just causing damage to the wall, but dangerous for whoever might have the whole thing come down on his head!

We showed this photo to Luke Joyce, Camden's Project Manager for the redevelopment of HNCC, but he referred us to the Fresh Youth Academy coordinator......



Update: 10th April 2019:
During an official visit to the Hall to view it as a prospect for purchase by the newly constituted Mission Hall Group, we noticed that the walls had been repaired and there was a free-standing piece of equipment, which looks like a punch-bag holder in - so this is progress!
We understand that the Fresh Youth Academy will continue using the People's Gospel Mission Hall until they are transferred to a new location at the end of May 2019, during which time we will be able to arrange more viewings: - see Campaign Meetings.

A number of HNCC members attended the meeting, together with other members of the public occupying Galleries 1 and 2, overlooking the main chamber. Below, in the chamber were those who had applied to speak, including Robert Aitken, Chair of HNCC (in favour), Tamar Swade, tutor of Pilates classes in the People's Gospel Mission Hall (whose objections focused on the loss of this historical asset), Lizzie Smith, resident of Winscombe Street (also against) and two Camden Councillors.

Written submissions included Tamar's and Lizzie's statements which they were also allowed to present verbally, sharing 5 minutes of presentation time, both speaking eloquently and coherently. Thanos Morphitis, who was not present had set out a substantial objection to the whole proposal covering (i) the loss of public open space, (ii) inadequate facilities for children under 5 with no access to outside safe play space, (iii) problems in traffic, servicing, parking and deliveries, as well as (iv) the prospect of providing a cycle through-route safely in the proposed plans, but scant, if any, reference was made to his objections, except by a member of the Planning Committee, who picked up on the aspects of traffic turnaround and lack of safety for children. She later abstained, rather than voting against the proposal.

After a great deal of procedural introduction and a lengthy presentation by David Fowler, chief planning officer, members of the committee crowded around to view a model of the proposed new buildings displayed in the middle of the hall, then the submissions of those who had asked to speak were heard (as above), followed by brief statements from those in favour including Luke Joyce, Project Coordinator, a lady who coordinates the provision of youth facilities, who was "excited" by the scheme, Robert Aitken who stated that the Trustees were fully in support although they would be challenged to keep alive the activities of HNCC, which were being dispersed to neighbouring venues during the building period.

The local Labour Councillor Anna Wright spoke in favour, although she had reservations about the traffic problem and the loss of the hall in Winscombe Street and urged the Council to explore every possible option for removing the hall from the scheme if alternative finance could be found. Councillor Sian Berry was concerned about density and impact on neighbouring properties and also spoke in favour of retaining the Gospel Hall for the community and asked for options for more affordable homes to be included, and was concerned about management of the construction process in terms of environmental aspect and conditions of work, but at the same time wanted them to just get on with it.

Finally, there were questions by members of the Planning Committee, which were all very lengthy - the meeting continued from 7pm until 9pm. Briefly, the conclusions were as follows:

(1) That the application for the People's Gospel Mission Hall to be considered an Asset of Community, had been AGREED, although it was made clear that this would not necessarily have any impact on the decision of the Planning Committee. NB this Hall is off-site in adjacent Winscombe Street, and we have been informed by Luke Joyce that they are planning to use it as a site office during the building - see also a report that the Police will be using it for Boxing Classes. NB a Save the Gospel Mission Hall Group has recently been constituted, and it is clear that much further work will need to be done by this group if this Hall is to be saved for the community - see Notes of Inaugural Meeting held on 14th February 2019.

(2) The overall proposal to demolish the current buildings and build one small block to house both the Community Centre and Fresh Youth Academy, plus two blocks of new flats, numbering 41 altogether, including just seven to be rented out at "affordable" rates, was AGREED.  

DRAFT NOTES (mainly from memory - MF) at 17/2/2019 which may be updated as a result of other contributions and/or further viewing of the podcast of the meeting:
https://camden.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/40261

Venue: People's Gospel Mission Hall, from 11am

  1. This rather hastily convened meeting included 11 HNCC members who had attended the Pilates class, together with their Tutor plus another member who attends two other classes.
  2. The context of the meeting was the upcoming Meeting of Camden Council's Planning Committee, and the advice we had received to organise ourselves formally.
  3. Those present unanimously agreed to the proposal to set up an organisation called the Save the Gospel Mission Hall Group, and all signed the document that Michael Ellman had prepared being a Draft Constitution.
  4. Nominations for four Trustees so far were received and approved, namely Mary Cane, Michael Ellman, Sally Donati and Mary Fee.
  5. Michael reminded those present to attend Camden Council's Planning meeting to be held the same evening at the Crowndale Centre, 218 Eversholt Street, London NW1 1BD from 7pm

Gospel Mission Hall

In order to save the Gospel Mission Hall from being sold off private dwellings and therefore lost to the community, centre users have launched a campaign to have it declared an Asset of Community Value, led by Tamar Swade, pilates tutor. Over a fortnight after the letter had been submitted on 2nd January, with the required 21 signatories of individuals resident in Camden , Tamar received a reply saying it had to be filled in on an Application Form - which helpfully explains that a Community Group has to be formed with a Constitution, and that supporting material is required, all to be submitted by Monday 21st January 2019:

Tamar tamarswade@gmail.com is collecting letters to send to with the completed form to: Andrew.Triggs@camden.gov.uk - so if you write to him direct, after this date, please copy her in. To get involved please Contact Us.

There has been a series of campaigns around the proposed rebuilding programme. Initially the Community Centre was going to be put into the basement of a block of flats (most of which are not going to be on offer at affordable rates), and there was a storm of protest, which resulted in an improved plan. A renewed campaign against the plan as a whole was launched in advance of the planning meeting to be held on 14th February 2019 - see Key Documents, and Contacts in Camden.

An associated campaign, in case all else fails, is to save the historical People's Gospel Mission Hall, which is not part of the centre - it has access from the extension which houses the Fresh Youth Academy (above), but faces out into nearby Winscombe Street (below). The plan is to turn this Hall into two luxury homes - if you wish to follow or participate in either aspect of this campaign and wish to be kept informed, please Contact Us.