A grand open day has helped a new community centre at Royal Wharf get off to a flying start.
Head over to east London’s Royal Wharf and at various times of the week you’ll find local people having a go at computer coding, ballet, board games or maybe salsa dancing. All these activities and more have been taking place at the new Royal Wharf Community Dock, which had its grand opening last month.
The community centre has set up home in brand new premises in Royal Wharf, in the Royal Docks, where residents can drop by to take part in fitness classes or simply get to know a neighbour. The centre is run by local charity West Silvertown Foundation (WSF), which has been working to develop thriving communities in the Royal Docks for more than two decades and already manages the nearby Britannia Village Hall.
The centre’s five-strong team pulled out all the stops to ensure the new facility got off to a flying start. September’s opening day had food stalls, performances by the acclaimed choir Stratford East Singers and cocktails and other refreshments courtesy of local businesses Triple Two, Chips ‘n’ dat and Gem’s Delights. There were also taster sessions of the centre’s activities, many of which are run by Royal Wharf’s resourceful residents, eager to share their talents, explains Chloe Lee, a community activator with the centre. “The yoga, coding and other activities have come about because keen residents have come to us and offered to do them.”
The centre’s opening celebration came hot on the heels of the Royal Wharf Summer Fete in August, where residents enjoyed a day of music, yoga and other activities and a global menu of foodie treats. The festivities also included an old-school sports day, complete with traditional egg-and-spoon races, which was organised by Richard House Children’s Hospice, an east London children’s charity that benefitted from the day.
WSF is working with the Royal Wharf Residents’ Association and residents themselves to find out what they would like to see happening at the centre. Its 190 square metre main space, 60 square metre secondary space and two meeting rooms have a busy timetable of activities already and when classes aren’t in progress residents can pop in to relax with a coffee, have a game at the table tennis table or enjoy some quiet family reading time. Spaces are also available for hire for parties or other activities, with a discounted rate for Royal Wharf residents.
The centre is open from 9-til-9 on weekdays and 9-til-5 at weekends and is already proving particularly popular with young working professionals and young families. To cater for the latter, the centre is providing activities specifically for children, including soft play and after school family time. “We’ve had more than 100 parents and children come along to our soft play sessions so far,” says Chloe. “Parents are often especially keen to make friends when they move to a new area and don’t know people.”
That hints at the serious purpose behind all these fun and fitness activities. Moving into a new home brings with it the adventures of finding your way in an unfamiliar community and a centre like this can provide valuable connections among and between an area’s new and existing residents that can ultimately lead to friendships and cohesive communities. John Mulryan, Ballymore’s Group Managing Director, has said that it has always been the company’s ambition to, “build a community here where residents will meet their neighbours and get to know each other.”
WSF Director of Operations, Peter Laing, said: “WSF has a strong track record of working with our local community and we’re very excited by how this new centre will help to create a vibrant, integrated community where ambitions are realised and friendships thrive”. The new centre is helping to do that, says Chloe: “I met a woman yesterday who said she had lived in the area for two years and not felt a real sense of belonging. But she said that the centre has already started to change that.”
To get involved with activities at the Royal Wharf Community Dock, visit www.royalwharfcd.org or follow them on twitter @rwcommunitydock for regular updates.