Despite living in NW5 for nearly four years, I’m ashamed to say it’s only recently that I’ve really grown to love my local area. Prior to this, walking to and from the tube station to travel to work in London Bridge was pretty much my only interaction. But last September, just as I began ten months of maternity leave, my five year old Jack started primary school at Carlton and I decided to become a parent governor there. As a result of making this local connection and having more time on my hands, I’ve really got to explore what Kentish Town has to offer. I’ve even now got local ‘mummy’ friends – something I never thought would happen.
A few months after I had my second child, I decided I should stop living off chocolate and make at least a token attempt at losing the baby weight. But I couldn’t justify spending my meagre maternity pay on joining a fancy gym, let alone expensive crèche fees on top. After all, someone has to look after the sproglet while I’m honing my physique (and trust me, this physique needs a lot of honing).
Queen’s Crescent Community Centre was a surprise, then. I pay £14 a month to use its gym (less for those on benefits) which boasts cross-trainers, exercise bikes and treadmills plus other machines that scare me. We go on Tues-Thursday mornings when little Josh can stay in the crèche for £1.50 an hour. So I’m not breaking the bank, and Josh is happy because he gets a well-deserved break from me.
But it’s not just about the gym and my unrelenting struggle towards weight-loss. The crèche doubles as a ‘drop-in’ where mums and dads can come along with their under 5s and play with a selection of toys. There’s a state of the art recording studio where teenagers can learn to produce their own music. And the cafe provides healthy cheap lunches for older people too. You can’t knock that.
Queens Crescent Community Association (QCCA), which runs the centre, also runs a number of other community projects locally. One of those is Caversham Nursery, where Josh will go when I return to work in July. This month it’s been rated as good with outstanding elements by Ofsted and is a couple of hundred pounds cheaper a month than every other nursery we looked at. In many cases it’s even cheaper as the fees are tiered depending on income.
The association also runs the Peggy Jay centre, another drop-in at Hampstead Heath, Fleet Community Centre and Maitland Park Sports Centre. (Which incidentally, my £14 a month also enables me to access).
QCCA really does matter. In a climate where services are closing down left, right and centre, QCCA is making sure our local community doesn’t miss out – and not just the most deprived people either. But it can only continue to do this if we give it our support. Which is a good incentive for me to continue going, anyway. And who knows? I may finally lose those excess pounds after all.
Words: Noella Bello Castro @mamadaveycastro
Why It Matters comes in association with Discount Insurance,whose boss is a fan of our daily digest and lives in one of Kentish Town’s leafier streets (lucky him!)