An article published in the Guardian today features the Building Preservation Trust and our Chair Rob Clayton - 'As the city’s population nears 10 million and its murder rate reaches its highest in a decade, are young Londoners suffering disproportionately?'
Here is an extract:
Among the 81 youth clubs that have shuttered since 2011 is Grove Park in Lewisham, south-east London, which closed in 2013 when the local council implemented central government cuts that have slashed 34% (almost £1.5m) from its youth services budget since 2011. Another £200,000 will go in this year’s budget. (Neighbouring Southwark and Lambeth have experienced cuts of more than 50%.) Property developers swooped in with plans to knock it down and build new flats.
“It was built in 1966, and it’s served the community for almost five decades,” says Rob Clayton, chairman of the youth centre’s building preservation trust, which has been campaigning to get it reopened since 2015. “Nobody wants it demolished. All the locals are saying there’s a need for a youth club here – but all of a sudden it was gone, and the Labour MP Heidi Alexander was standing there, next to property developers, giving the local community this ‘There’s no magic money tree’ type of lecture.”
Clayton refused to give up, helping organise tireless voluntary campaigning by the community, from public meetings and lobbying the council to working with architects and establishing its importance as a Bauhaus-inspired building. He and his fellow campaigners fitted the work around full-time jobs. “I put in about 40 hours a month on this,” he says. “I come from a working-class background, grew up on a council estate, and I’m not massive about youth clubs – but it’s just the general fabric of our society being broken down and asset-stripped. And I thought if I can’t do something nationally, I can do something on my doorstep.”
The building was saved from demolition in August 2017. The party was attended by Alexander’s replacement as local MP, Janet Daby, who has been much more supportive, and although a lot of work remains to get the centre open again, it felt like something of a turning point, Clayton says.
“It was just fantastic seeing the building come to life again that day, after all those years closed,” he says. “We had singers, rap artists, dancers, someone cooking jerk chicken – it was a sunny day and it was just a wonderful atmosphere. It was a taste of the future, and what we’re trying to get back.
“And I think some of the local politicians have realised it’s not a good look closing youth clubs while young people are killing each other right, left and centre.”