No more drama! We round off our script-reading course…

Yesterday we had our last session of our script-reading course with Westminster Kingsway tutor Michael. Over the last nine weeks, the group have been reading a variety of scripts together, learning techniques around getting into character, voice projection and natural delivery. As the main hall is right next to my office I have heard many a strange noise and occasionally a scream coming from the room! I assume this is all part of drama school…

For their last session, the group invited myself, new KGN worker Lydia and Reception volunteer Kafia into the session to enjoy their final performance of scripts by Alan Ayckbourn and Ken Campbell. Having popped in to the course near its beginnings a few weeks ago, I was stunned at how much their confidence and delivery had improved and become more expressive. The final piece was about a failing marriage and we almost shed a tear!

We’d like to thank Michael for coming to deliver the sessions and hope we can do more in future. Now they’ve got the basics of script-reading mastered it’s surely time to get them in costume and on stage? Watch this space…

CTCer Spotlight: Irene


How did you find out about Abbey Community Centre?

My physio at the medical centre opposite recommended me joining an exercise class, so I started by coming to Tuesday class, which I still go to nowadays (1-2pm).

What is a typical week for you at the community centre?

I like having something to do every day, ever since I retired. I go to Bridge on Fridays (1.30 – 3.30pm) It’s quite hard on the memory – not just a simple game – but really good for making you think so I do recommend that.

I play the autoharp and sing so I used to give some classes to people for that at one stage, as a way of offering something and sharing my skills. At a beginner level it’s quite easy to learn. If anyone would like a taster session feel free to approach me or leave your name and number at reception.

I also joined the choir (Tuesdays 6 – 7.30pm) to keep up with my singing. It’s good fun, not very serious, and keeps your voice in trim.

I volunteer at the café every other Saturday. It’s a lovely way of meeting people. You see everyone coming in who you see at other classes so it’s a very sociable thing. I’ve always shyed away from things that are just for ‘old people’ so I like that the café is for all ages, families, so it feels like something for the whole community rather than just ‘old people’. I don’t feel like an old person!

I’ve attended Restart Parties in the past – I got my toaster fixed! If I hadn’t done that I would have had to buy a new one instead.


How would you describe the experience of being part of Abbey Community Centre?

It’s always very welcoming. If you’re just passing by, you can come in and sit down and get talking to somebody. In other centres the Reception area is smaller, but the foyer at Abbey gives it a friendly atmosphere, everyone can sit and chat while they wait for their class.

What is the best thing about Abbey Community Centre?

The friendliness. And I should mention the wonderful staff, they are just great, so encouraging.

Have you spotted anything on the Calendar of Upcoming events that you would like to be part of?

I don’t know if I’ve got room for anything else! Something else would have to go!

What one thing would you say to others about the centre?

With all the events here, there’s something for everybody. They keep your mind going and alert – whether you’re looking for physical or mental health benefits, there will be something for you.

How would you sum up Abbey Community Centre in three words?
Welcoming, friendly, worthwhile.

Note from the editor: Thanks Irene for chatting to me about your experiences of the centre. If you’d like to be interviewed or have a story to share, do get in touch on or 07805 869136.


Baking up a storm

Every Friday morning for the past few weeks, delicious smells have been emanating from the Abbey kitchen as our tutor Justine shows the group how to bake cakes, scones, pies (today a key-lime pie which was fluffy as a cloud!) and muffins.

The ladies have all learned loads and have already been recreating the recipes at home. They are also generous and like to share which is great news for us in the Abbey office.

The class has been so popular that Justine will be running three classes just for men in the run up to Christmas on 30th Nov, 7th and 14th December from 10am – 1pm. £1 per session, booking essential – contact Gavin if you’re interested on 07505 933617.

Happy baking everyone!

Blooming brilliant! Abbey Community Centre Garden WINS Camden in Bloom award

Drum roll please… we are delighted to announce that after a good few years of going for gold, we have secured FIRST PLACE in the Camden in Bloom Awards 2018 for Best Community Garden!


Here’s our head gardener, Maria Elena, with volunteer Violet. Both of them along with a small team are responsible for keeping the garden blooming all year round. Our prize was £50 to spend in the garden which was very gratefully received, plus some yummy Alara cereals which will go down well at coffee morning and for our early birds at the Abbey Community Cafe.

We also got to enjoy afternoon tea with the Mayor of Camden, Cllr Jenny Headlam-Wells. We loved checking out the fancy mayoral gear and feasting on the delicious spread they had put on for the Camden in Bloom winners.

Camden in Bloom aims to encourage residents, businesses and community groups to take pride in their neighbourhood and create a cleaner, greener and healthier Camden. We won Best Community Garden this year; other categories include best individual garden, best green corner and best business garden.

We really think our garden is worth shouting about. It’s our little slice of paradise a stone’s throw from Kilburn High Road. Even just stepping into it for a few moments, I feel calmer. We have many plants and flowers in our planters, plus decorations made by our re-cycle-art group. The garden is maintained entirely by our dedicated volunteers.

Produce from our garden – from potatoes to herbs to tomatoes and radishes – is used in our cooking at our Saturday cafe and Men’s Cooking Classes. The ultimate in reducing your ‘food miles’.

The garden is also its own activity hub. At our Abbey Community Festival in September, adults and children came along to a gardening workshop with Maria-Elena. Previously our garden has enabled us to run our Dig it! Gardening and Craft project during the summer holidays, and our Growing Buddies project where we grew plants in recycled containers to take to older people in blocks of flats who do not have gardens of their own.

A huge thank you go to our gardening volunteer team; if you fancy being part of this award-winning bunch then please pop by on a Friday morning from 11am. And thank you to May for being our official fabulous photographer.

Thank you, Camden in Bloom!

An Abbey poem from Nelissa on National Poetry Day

You may remember from our post about our Community Festival that local spoken-word poet Nelissa came to perform a few of her poems for us, which were very much enjoyed by the crowds. Today it’s National Poetry Day so what better way to celebrate than by sharing one of Nelissa’s latest poems which just so happens to be all about the Abbey Community Centre!

“I came along to the Abbey Community
To see what was happening
that could be good for me.

The warm welcome I received was second to none,
This was a haven, so much could be done,
Gardening, cooking, Nordic Walks,
Sewing, exercise classes and IT support.

The list goes on as the activity list grows
Now there is a Saturday cafe
Which is a lovely place to go.
Each week we are delighted with the delicious
food offer on the menu –
It’s often varied, something different for me and you.

What a lovely place this is,
to come and meet new friends.
Sit down, have a chat,
and make yourself feel at home.
This Abbey Community Centre,
has a magic all of its own…

So thank you to all the staff and volunteers
May this space be open for many more years.

© Nelissa Mendy, 2018

Thanks so much Nelissa for the heart-warming poem – we’re so glad Abbey has been such an important place for you. Nelissa actually used to run our creative writing group, which happens every third Thursday of the month. The next session will be on the 18th October, 12.15-1.45pm, and the theme will be ‘Money’. So come along if Nelissa’s poem has inspired you or you just fancy trying something a bit different.

Happy National Poetry Day!

CHAPS on tour: Vivian Court!

Pop-up events are quickly becoming one of our favourite ways to recruit new 50+ men to our CHAPS group (and women to CTC while we’re at it!) and the other week we got to visit a local sheltered housing, Vivian Court, in partnership with Age UK Camden.

We’re really happy about the number of men now turning up for our Men’s Friday sessions (1.30-3.30pm in the Belsize Room), where they all get the chance to just hang out and be men. We have a few guys passing the time having a chat; others could be getting info from the internet, playing Dominoes, card games, table tennis or even getting their hair cut as we now have the barber back with us cutting hair for £5.

Dominoes is definitely a firm favourite among the group so we brought these along to Vivian Court, getting the residents together with this classic game.

We also brought along our Boccia kit to show them how it’s done! Our Boccia sessions are another Abbey favourite (Fridays 12.15-1.15pm) and always create a bit of team spirit.  We all had such a great time and a few of the residents were interested in passing by the community centre to participate in our classes. So thanks to the CHAPS who came along to help recruit new members – looking forward to the next stop on the tour soon.

Abbey Community Festival!

We had a fabulous time on Saturday at our September / ‘back-to-school’ festival. This was funded by Camden Council’s Community Festival fund and we put it on in partnership with Henna Asian Women’s Group. We’d also like to thank the People’s Health Trust, who are currently enabling us to keep opening on a Saturday with their two-year grant towards our Saturday cafe.

The day kicked off with a Tech Buddies taster session, which was very well-attended. Lots of new faces! Meanwhile all our lovely local stall-holders were setting up in the hall. This included our sewing and crotchet groups, some bric-a-brac / tombola stalls (CTCers raising money for Abbey), a henna artist, Jean’s nail salon and amazing local trader Uzma’s jewellery and accessories stall which I confess to buying a couple of treats from…

Our first performance in the hall was from our favourite band The Elderly Brothers who provided a wonderful backing track as our guests started trickling in, browsing the stalls and getting in line for food from Henna Asian Women’s Group. Which was to die for!

Elsewhere, Zam and Tissy held story and song time for the kids; Maria-Elena ran some gardening and craft workshops in the garden; Chanda and Sinead got selling the raffle tickets and Norman ran a Bridge taster in the foyer. Making use of all the space in the centre! We also had some of our lovely cafe volunteers selling smoothies and snacks in the Reception area.

It was soon starting to feel really buzzy and lively with all the entertainments and treats on offer! Some people went outside to enjoy their meal in the fresh air.

Next it was time to welcome our Mayor of Camden, Cllr Jenny Headlam-Wells, who everyone was excited to hear from. She took to the stage and gave a great speech praising independent charities like Abbey then took the time to chat to some of our centre users and staff.

The CHAPS (our 50+men group) had a great time outside playing dominoes with some new guys. Indoors we had tasters of seated exercise; creative writing; boccia; and taekwondo – just some of the activities on offer at Abbey.

We also had a brilliant performance from the South Sudanese dance troupe to much applause. Abbey staff member Bryony was invited to take part at last minute which was an honour, not sure her dance moves were quite as stylish though…

Another much-enjoyed performance was given by local poet Nelissa, who previously ran the creative writing group at Abbey. She read moving poems on knife crime, mental health and cultural difference. You can listen to her poems on Youtube here.
Nelissa attends Tech Buddies which is where she received support to set up her channel and she now gets a well-deserved larger audience for her work which is great.

Finally the much-anticipated raffle results were announced! There was some fantastic prizes on offer included this gorgeous cake donated by our trustee John and a lovely hamper from Sainsbury’s Kilburn High Rd, for whom we are local charity of the year.

We had a wonderful day and hope all our guests did too. We’d like to say a big thank you again to all our volunteers, stallholders, Henna Asian Women’s Group, Camden Council’s festival fund, our MC Paul, our photographer May, our trustees, Sainsbury’s, all our performers and Oscar’s Den for providing the balloons – an essential part of any festival I’m sure you’ll agree!

Hope to do something similar next year. It’s certainly seen off any end-of-summer blues and got some new faces into the centre too which is always a good thing. Here are some of the lovely comments we received on the day…

“Food was great and a lovely feeling”
“Wonderful, amazing, everyone very friendly”
“Fantastic food, never eaten before like this. Very very tasty thanks a lot”
“Fantastic afternoon, I’m having such a good time… pleasant staff, good food and entertainment, reasonable books and other items… it’s all happening here… topped up with a speech from the Mayor of Camden… can’t ask for more.”