Estimated reading time:5 minutes, 29 seconds
St Luke’s Community Centre, tucked off City Road, is a place people want to go. Here Lisa Burrell, St Luke’s Communications Manager, explains how the centre attracts that magic mix of Silicon Roundabout hipsters, families, the over 55s and private clients. Interview by Nicola Baird
“We want the local community to know we’re here and that we can offer support for all ages,” says Lisa Burrell, the cheerful Communications Manager at St Luke’s Community Centre. She may work part time, but St Luke’s is nearly always open – for the community it’s six days a week, including Christmas Day 2016 when a lunch will be served to the over 55s. On Saturdays it is used for private functions including work meetings and even wedding receptions.
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St Luke’s is for the people of St Luke’s, so there’s a map of the area above the reception desk – basically south Islington, and mostly the EC1 postcode. This area now boasts some extremely expensive new property including Islington’s tallest building, the Lexicon, and on the other side of the canal basin, the 31-storey Canaletto Tower (257 City Road). But it also has Bunhill Ward, which is in the top 20 per cent of the most deprived areas in London. Indeed the reason St Luke’s, which is a very old charity, exists, is to tackle inequality and give those in need a leg up.
“It’s an area that’s changed beyond recognition from when I lived in Old Street and Angel while I was a Media Studies student at City University, 20 years ago,” says Lisa who is originally from Buckinghamshire. “I lived on Bunhill Row in the halls of residences too (they’ve gone now) and I’ve got such fond memories of this area. I’ve got a little girl now and I’ve moved out to Rickmansworth, in Hertfordshire – one of the furthest stops on the Metropolitan line – but I like getting my London fix coming into the office for one day a week.”
- Central Street Café is lovely. They do lots of vegan stuff. I tend to have the soup – it’s easy and yummy. All profits go towards making healthy home-cooked foods for elderly Islingtonians served every weekday. Insta @centralstreetcafeldn
- I like City University even though I haven’t been in it for years. I love walking past the building in the evening when it’s all lit up.
- I lived at Highbury Corner in my 20s and went out a lot in Angel – this predates the shopping centre. I liked walking home along Upper Street.
About 75,000 people use St Luke’s each year. There may be an annex of the King’s Square Nursery on the site for pre-schoolers, but most of the visitors are aged 55+ popping in to enjoy a healthy meal at the lunch club. There is also a hairdresser, masseur, art rooms, reading room, real billiard table and a lounge.
St Luke’s was revamped a few years ago and as a result there’s not a whiff of institution – every room is individually decorated, something you notice even in the reception where you are greeted by music, a pair of bright patchwork batwing armchairs and a pink rickshaw. No surprise many older people – including some with dementia – are happy to spend all day at St Luke’s. There’s even a popular Men’s Shed Club designed to help older men who may otherwise become very isolated. A few rooms are designed to be hired out, on the day I visited there was a workshop for advanced marketing managers but the space is popular with all sorts and looks ideal for board meetings.
After school a new crowd arrive for yoga, art classes and even to learn to cook. During 2016 there were 163 community cookery classes and activities thanks to 1002 volunteer support hours. In total 5,732 people went to the cookery school and 888 children cooked in the kitchen.
“It’s really lovely to see five year old boys trying to cut up butternut squash at the family cookery classes,” says Lisa. “It’s 50p a person – our cookery school manager, Sofia, teaches healthy eating at home and ways to avoid food waste so saving money. And most of the food used is donated by businesses – a few weeks ago we had a donation from Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen (15 Westland Place, N1),” she adds with clear pride. St Luke’s also hires out their fabulous kitchens.
If you haven’t yet visited St Luke’s do have a look at the website, and definitely make time to go to their Central Street coffee shop. This is packed with laptop hipsters (this is ever so close to Silicon Roundabout/aka Old Street after all) enjoying very good coffee, but it’s also a lovely destination – and when it’s warmer you can also enjoy their plant-filled rooftop garden. There are so many ways to get involved at St Luke’s besides a café visit though, from volunteering at Christmas to joining a cookery class, so do let Islington Faces know what you’ve done there or plan to do.
- St Luke’s Community Centre, 90 Central Street, EC1 @stlukestrust Facebook
Mon-Thursday 9am-8pm, Friday 9am-5pm, Sunday 11am-3pm
- Central Café, 90 Central Street, EC1 Insta @centralstreetcafeldn
Mon-Friday 8am-3pm, Weekends 9am-5pm
Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.