Community centre cuts would be the ‘saddest thing’

A founding member of one of Islington’s oldest community centres said she would be “sat at home feeling sorry for myself” if its remaining funding is cut by the council.

Ann Mbachu, 67, an Islington resident for the past 38 years, said it would be the “saddest thing” if Hilldrop Community Centre lost its funding, and outlined its pivotal role in her own life after she was diagnosed with glaucoma five years ago.

“When I was first diagnosed with glaucoma, I remember sitting at home and thinking, ‘What am I going to do now?’”

“But after Bob Drinkwater, the centre’s manager, offered to teach me the ukulele, it really gave me a new focus to go out and do something that I love.”

After learning the ukulele, Ms Mbachu helped to form the Hilldrop Ukulele Band and Singers (HUBS), which has now performed at more than 50 events in St. George’s, with locations ranging from care homes to children’s birthday parties.

She said: “If this place wasn’t here, I would probably just be sat at home feeling very sorry for myself.”

She added: “I think Hilldrop is vital to St. George’s. If you haven’t got a place where you can come and talk to people and be part of something, what are you doing?”

If the council decides to remove the centre’s remaining funding of £75,000, manager Bob Drinkwater said the cuts would come into effect in 2016 and revealed that he is already considering other sources of funding.

Ben Stupples - Bob Drinkwater
Bob Drinkwater

He said: “The likelihood of us being able to cover every penny that is taken away is fairly remote, but we are going to review all our charges to try and increase our income from hiring out the centre.”

He added: “It’s something we’ve been used to. We’ve always come through ups, downs and cuts.”

While Islington Council declined to comment, St. George’s councillor Kat Fletcher highlighted the centre’s importance to its surrounding community.

She said: “For many years, Hilldrop Community Centre has served as a place for people to come together, whether that be at a time of need, to learn a new skill, celebrate life’s key events or just relax and meet new people.

“As a valuable community asset, it will always be rigorously defended and supported by those it serves.”