SO Resi Canning Town

Greenwich: How GCDA is appealing for help in completing its community hub

Organisation looking to raise £10k to help fit out its new cafe, shop, office and training space

GCDA’s community hub will be on the ground floor of this building on Royal Hill

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

Change is in the air at Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency (GCDA).

Having spent more than four decades helping people in the borough through its community hubs, free training programmes, enterprise support and food projects, the organisation is set to open a new base of operations on Royal Hill.

Located on the ground floor of London Square’s Old Police Station development, the new facility will provide office space for GCDA alongside a classroom, gallery, training kitchen, shop and cafe area.

Construction training organisation Flower Skills has already contributed extensive free labour on the build-out of the unit, to get walls in place and plastered.

Now the charity is appealing to the community and local businesses via a crowdfunding campaign for help in raising £10,000 to complete the fit-out.

The hub will have a gallery, shop and cafe

“That’s our ambition and it would be fantastic if we can achieve it,” said Claire Pritchard, GCDA director.

“We launched the campaign to our members and the people who have benefited from our work in August, and achieving that total will take us a long way to getting the project finished.

“We’re doing the work in stages – the office space, which was formerly the developer’s marketing suite, will be finished by the end of September, hopefully the kitchen and training room by the end of November and then the shop and cafe space by the end of January.

“In February we should be fully operational.”

The new facility will see GCDA’s Made In Greenwich shop relocate to the new hub and will also allow the organisation to move out of its current premises at Greenwich Centre Business Park.

“The building in Royal Hill is beautiful and we’re really excited about moving from the industrial estate to a place in the heart of Greenwich,” said Claire.

“It will also give us full disability access, which we didn’t have before at either of those two buildings.”

GCDA director Claire Pritchard

The money from the appeal will go towards decorating and furnishing the various spaces, with fire doors and kitchen units also on the wish list so GCDA can get on with its work – helping support local enterprise, train local people and promote healthy lifestyles.

“We’ll be offering some of our cooking and chef skills training sessions here as well as creative courses such as sewing, hat-making, creative arts, drawing and writing,” said Claire.

“There will also be the business start-up courses, which I run.

“Helping people start their own businesses is so important – there’s a real social benefit to it.

“On the courses, sometimes as many as a third will start their own operations and we can support them in that with things like start-up space on the markets we run to help them de-risk.

“That includes food businesses,  street trading and general market trading, for example.

“People come to us for all sorts of reasons – they might want a change of career, have been made redundant or have caring responsibilities that affect what they can do.

“Beyond that, there will also be volunteering opportunities and this will be a great place to volunteer as they will be really supported – there will be up to 10 GCDA staff based in the building so there will always be people around.”

GCDA is raising money to help with the fit out

That, in fact, is the other key aim of the new facility.

One of GCDA’s main missions is to bring people together at community hubs – something it already does in Woolwich and Kidbrooke Village. 

“A lot of people have said to us they need a centre for the community, a place to hang out and be part of, so this could be a place which local people could enjoy,” said Claire.

“We want to bring everyone together.

“We spent a year working on a project called High Streets For All about West Greenwich – this area – and looking at the markets.

“We found that in come cases local communities feel displaced by change and sometimes they don’t.

“We’ve met people who love living in this historic place and others who say there’s nothing here for them.

“We have always wanted to ensure that our main hub is open to everyone and the move from the industrial unit in Norman Road will mean that we can achieve that goal.

“Moving Made In Greenwich here means we won’t have to subsidise it in commercial premises and can continue to support the artists and makers.

“I’d also love to see local artists using the gallery space we will have.

The community hub is set to include a training kitchen

“We will be able to host more exhibitions in a really beautiful space, perhaps even following our original vision, which was to focus on exhibiting works around things we especially care about such as vulnerable people, property, equality and sustainability as well as challenging the economic system

“Made In Greenwich was always a campaign – to value what is made locally and to support the people who create those products and artworks.

“We’ve had brilliant support with this from Greenwich Council, which commissioned things from us and, more recently, we’ve had talks with The O2 and a local hotel to help drive it forward. 

“We discovered that whenever the hotel has special guests, it would buy products specially from Made In Greenwich because there’s that real value in having goods created by artisan makers locally.”

The crowdfunding campaign is ongoing to help raise cash for the project, but Claire said funds were not the only thing needed to help the new hub come to fruition. 

“We know that times are extremely tough for people, but even a few pounds will help us make a real difference,” she said. 

“In addition, if you have any useful practical skills, then we’d love to hear from you too. We appreciate every contribution.”

Visit GCDA’s website online or via the QR code below for more details of the crowdfunder and how to get involved.

The site also offers full listings for GCDA’s various activities and facilities, such as room hire at its venues and kitchen space.

GCDA staff will also have office space at the facility

Find out more about GCDA here

Read more: Sign up for the Santa Stair Climb at One Canada Square

Read Wharf Life’s e-edition here

Subscribe to our free Wharf Whispers newsletter here

- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
Subscribe To Wharf Life

Greenwich: How GCDA is celebrating the breadth of its activities in the borough

As Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency marks its 40th, we chat to CEO Claire Pritchard

GCDA CEO Claire Pritchard
GCDA CEO Claire Pritchard – image Matt Grayson

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency this year celebrates 40 years since its creation.

It was founded with a stated central mission to support the establishment of community owned, democratically managed cooperatives to boost employment, improve local economic opportunities and protect or provide local services. 

In short, it’s spent four decades working to make the lives of people in the Royal Borough Of Greenwich better and there’s much more to come.

For the last 20 years, Claire Pritchard has worked for the organisation, taking over as director in 2010.

She said: “In our 40th year we really want to celebrate and highlight what we do. It’s still very much about community development.”

That might seem like a pretty open-ended statement, but Claire deserves some sympathy, because efficiently conveying the sheer breadth of GCDA’s activities is no easy task.

It supports, trains, educates, connects, sells, communicates, promotes and gives a platform to a Chinese Women’s Association to perform fan dances. It runs a community centre, a shop, markets and a commercial kitchen.

It hosts Yoga, boxing, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, Mencap, a Vietnamese Women’s Group and provides space for a nursery and a domestic violence drop-in service.

It offers courses in starting businesses, community development, catering, feeding kids, crafts and horticulture, among others. Oh, and later this year it intends to open an art gallery.

It’s a complex web of industry, with threads woven right through the borough connecting entrepreneurs, makers and residents through the likes of GCDA’s operations at Woolwich Common Community Centre, Made In Greenwich and Greenwich Kitchen.

Claire outside Made In Greenwich
Claire outside Made In Greenwich – image Matt Grayson

“This is what we’ve grown into,” said Claire, who joined the organisation in a role focused on food in the borough. “There was a big change about 15 years ago when we had to go from being a grant-funded organisation to one that could fund all of its own activities.

“That was really tough, but it enabled us to go back and see what we really wanted to do – what people’s needs were and how we could respond to them.

“For example, six years ago we found Woolwich Common Community Centre, which was one of the lowest occupied venues of its kind in the borough, located in one of the poorest wards in London. It was an area where people wouldn’t go in the evenings – but now it’s fully occupied.

“We really responded to what people asked us to do, so now there’s everything from table tennis to food growing, boxing training and much more.

“We’ve also always wanted to celebrate small businesses and support them. 

“We wanted to do something called Made In Greenwich as a platform for local artists and makers that was sustainable.

“We’d been looking for years and eventually managed to secure a shop right in the centre of Greenwich.

“We now stock products and works of art from more than 100 makers in the borough – supporting fledgling businesses who don’t have the money to market themselves so they can grow and refine their operations.

“Made In Greenwich has just won the 2021 award for retail at the Best Of Royal Greenwich Business Awards and it’s a brand we really want to develop.

“Our strategy as an organisation is not necessarily about us having practical projects, but about looking at and celebrating what and who we’ve got in the borough – to promote those businesses and their sustainability because that’s how you create local wealth.

“Now we’re pursuing a gallery space, which is in a prime position just around the corner from our shop, because exhibitions are a great way to make campaigns whether it’s around equality, refugees or any other topic. We hope to open that in the autumn.

“What we’ve worked out is that, being local and knowing where we work is really important – we want  people who work with GCDA to be part of that community.

“We also know that in the future we don’t want to get much bigger as an organisation.

“The way to achieve what we want is to have a series of buildings where that work can come from – a gallery, a community centre, a shop or even a pub – so we can curate more activities to serve the needs of local residents.

“We have developed a very particular model for doing this, and we’d like to find a way to support other areas to do it too – not doing it ourselves because we don’t want GCDA itself to get really, really big.

“I did present to Tower Hamlets the other day, for example and Greenwich University have some funding in place to work with North Kent council to replicate our community centre model around food, social enterprise and sustainability.

“Where we have been successful in supporting communities, we would like to support other organisations to replicate this in the next 20 years.

“In Greenwich we want to help our communities thrive socially and economically, whether that’s by creating a nicer environment for people, training them in cooking skills, helping them access affordable fruit and veg or campaigning for more social housing and to protect public assets.

“In the 20 years I’ve worked here, one of the things that has made me most proud has been how everyone involved in GCDA has responded to the pandemic, turning our services on their head in a single day after the first 2020 lockdown and working out how to care for the very vulnerable, something we’re continuing to do.

“We’re a small organisation – there are fewer than 40 of us – but I think we’ve provided more than a million meals to those in need and we continued to support the traders at our markets, local businesses and our makers. 

“If people would like to get involved, they can look at our website or find us on social media, but they can also come and see us at Made In Greenwich or at one of our markets. 

“We’re always interested to talk to people and you can always join as a member. It’s through talking to those using our services and our members that we’ll define what we do in the next two decades.”

Read more: East End Community Foundation unveils Life Chances Campaign

Read e-editions of Wharf Life’s print edition here

Subscribe to Wharf Life’s weekly newsletter here

Subscribe To Wharf Life