What’s happened this month?

November has been an activity-packed month. The older people’s club, Asian women’s support group, knitting group, homework club, gardening group, drawing group poetry group and other activities have gone from strength to strength while new activities are being started up all the time by keen local people, a number of them benefitting from support from our small grants.

We have had young people’s theatre projects (watch the video below), a mothers’ sewing project, new English classes, computer classes for older people, pennant making for Olympic athletes, young people’s activities starting up. Many more are planned for December and January.

We’ve had Eid parties and are planning events for December; the money keeps on popping into the collection pots, and this all helps The Mill to keep running.

We have a great exhibition of street photography up and last Saturday local residents joined photographer, artist and exhibition curator Wendy Le Ber to learn more about street photography and go out in the streets with cameras to try it out.

We’ve got some great new volunteers joining our dedicated team – welcome to them all. The growing team of volunteers staffing reception and running activities are absolutely vital to the continued opening and success of The Mill and we’re very lucky to have people coming forward all the time.

We’re planning on changing our opening hours from the new year to better serve the community and make use of when volunteers are available. Details coming up on the website soon, but basically we’ll be open less in evenings but we will be open on Sundays.

A packed community ward forum

Following on from last month’s blog and much lobbying and fundraising I am most relieved to report that we now have heating on order. A triumph and a set back with our funding application to the community ward forum – we achieved only about 80% of the funds we needed, but the committee were able to decide that with all the donations and room hire contributions that have come in so far, we could go ahead and make up the difference.

The heating will be high-quality and highly-efficient electrical plug-in, wall-mounted heaters, which means our bills should stay manageable and the installation take place quickly, and we like to think that at some point in the future we’ll be able to have solar panels or somesuch to generate our own electricity for the system.

We have also done a snapshot monitoring week this month. Thanks to all the visitors who took part. Through this, we’re learning more about the people who visit our building. We’ve learned that they are largely ethnically representative of the local population and of a diverse range of ages, but that there could be potential to target certain age groups who seem underrepresented with future projects.

What’s been challenging this month?

We remain challenged by issues of sustainability, and the enormity of what it takes to run a community centre as a group of neighbours and volunteers. This, in itself, we fear for the sustainability of – but so far we are doing well out of people’s generosity, community spirit and sheer hard work on the project. The amount we hire out rooms needs to increase and, now that the heating is hopefully about to be sorted, our next huge challenge is to move towards being able to finally rent out the upstairs space to generated income – and hopefully share the building with like-minded people and organisations. We could do with the time and the good luck to have some successful grant applications in the coming months – all help appreciated! We could also do with the council recognising our work by reducing our rent somewhat…

What are you proud of this month?

Nonetheless, The Mill is a fabulous place which is really making a difference in our neighbourhood. Our neighbours frequently comment – as we do ourselves on the committee – how many more people we all know, how people are more friendly on the streets. Lots of little stories come up about how people have made new friends and contacts through The Mill, or enjoyed activities or learning a new skill. It is very hard to imagine the neighbourhood without The Mill now – so best get on with that business/sustainability plan…

Alison Griffin, November 2011

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