Communities Need A Centre

It is obvious to everyone that Flat 1 is not a community centre. It would be much better used as a wheelchair adapted flat which would generate revenue for the co-op.
A genuine community centre would provide indoor space for a wide range of services to Juniper residents, including:

1. Enough space for a full meeting of the entire membership. At present, flat one is simply not big enough should all the eligible members choose to attend the same meeting - which is hardly democratic. If all the eligible residents of Juniper were to become members, as should surely be the hope, then flat 1 would be totally uselss as a venue for meetings.
2. Daycare and creche facilities for working parents.
3. After-school and holiday resources for children.
4. Space for general events and socialising. 
5. Indoor marketplace and showcase for residents’ goods and crafts.
6. Delivery point for residents’ purchases. e.g. vegetable boxes etc. - especially for people at work during normal delivery hours.
7. Space for performances, exhibitions and other projects by residents.
8. I.T, music, yoga, pilates, aerobics, languages and other workshops.
9. Juniper Archive and heritage exhibition.
10. Adequate meeting space for all Juniper members, and a properly designed office space.
11. Access to print and internet resources.

Without some neutral shared space, there is no community, except by chance. All over the country, new community centres are being built as more local authorities realise that they prevent neighbours becoming strangers, especially as many old institutions, such as the local pub, are vanishing.
As for who would pay for a Juniper Community centre, the £30,000 wasted on the garden, plus the similar amount wasted on the football cage, would have gone a long way. And with a little Juniper effort and improvisation, we could have had a fully working community centre several years ago PLUS comprehensive play space plus a creative and inclusive garden project, and a lot more people would know their neighbours. But the current management regime, aided and abetted by Southwark Council, regard such a communitarian agenda as a great threat, and have done everything possible to sabotage any such initiative. Why, only they can say.

The report by the Community Development Foundation called 'Community Spaces in
Diverse Communities'
is quite clear about the vital need for Community spaces which provide safe places for people to come together to meet and interact informally, or to develop new skills, or to provide information and signposting, should be in the heart of communities, and fit for purpose.

Flat 1 may be in the heart of the community, but it is hopelessly unfit for its purpose, as it can only contain a tiny fraction of the residents, and has long ceased to be used for informal gatherings of any kind. The possibilities of any genuine community contacts being made through flat 1 are minimal. Instead, the only interaction being in the confrontational enviroment of meetings, when they are publicised.

Flat 1 would be far better used as a much-needed wheelchair access flat, and the hundred thousand pounds wasted on management follies much better spent on a purpose buiilt  community centre.

But that battle has been long-decided by London Borough of Southwark's interventions against the interests of the community, by the wall of silence which has excluded the membership from critical decisions; by the petty-minded perversity of a few determined vandals prepared to use intimidation to get their own way; by bureacratic obduracy and intransigence by the management and the hired help; by blatant transgression of the spirit of co-operative living and the co-op's own rules and conventions; by a callous disregard for the crying needs of the more vulnerable members of the community for support from the co-op and the resources to make that support a reality; by a miserably depressing lack of imagination and enthusiasm on behalf of the Southwark-approved management and the decisions they took in their various unofficial caucus meetings; and by the cringeing cowardice of the same group in simply giving in to Southwark's demands, and their refusal to grasp the enormous opportiunity offered by the demolition of the garages.

Whether Juniper House still exists today (5/10/08) is uncertain. The ballot to remain a co-op was held weeks ago and the decision is to be announced soon.

Given the lack of any campaign by management, residents can only assume that the towel has been thrown in. That any effort spent on a VOTE YES campaign would simpy have been a waste.

It could have been so different. By now, Juniper could have been undergoing a whole new lease of life with a new community facility for all, new play equipment and spaces, and an imaginative garden plan which attracted residents and wildlife into the garden rather than driving them away.