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Primrose Hill Community Centre meets fundraising goal thanks to local celebs

PUBLISHED: 14:12 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 14:12 16 January 2019

Harry Enfield and Stephen Mangan in conversation at Cecil Sharp House 15.01.19.

Harry Enfield and Stephen Mangan in conversation at Cecil Sharp House 15.01.19.

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Comedy favourites Harry Enfield and Stephen Mangan helped tip fundraisers over their £250,000 goal to secure the future of the Primrose Hill Community Centre.

Primrose Hill Community Centre. Picture: PHCAPrimrose Hill Community Centre. Picture: PHCA

During the bash on Tuesday night, fundraisers announced the Primrose Hill Community Association had raised £251,232 since they began campaigning for funds in September.

The last £6,000 had come from that night’s event, billed as “An Evening with Harry Enfield and Stephen Mangan in Conversation”, held at the Cecil Sharp House.

Located in the old boiler of a piano factory renovated into council flats, the Primrose Hill Community Centre has operated out of Hopkinson’s Place since 1980.

For most of the 39 years since, the council did not charge rent on the space and even gave a grant for the centre’s daily activities.

Stephen Mangan and Harry Enfield before their “in conversation” at Cecil Sharp House 15.01.19.Stephen Mangan and Harry Enfield before their “in conversation” at Cecil Sharp House 15.01.19.

However, cuts in local government funding have led Camden to start charging rent on the use of the building.

Last year, the fee was £22,000, but it is anticipated to rise to more than £40,000 in five years.

In order to preserve the centre, Camden Council offered the community association the chance to buy a 25-year lease on the building, a move that would save money on paying rent in the long run.

Long-time Primrose Hill resident Stephen Mangan, famed for roles including Guy Secretan in Green Wing and Dan Moody in I’m Alan Partridge, is a frequent visitor of the community centre.

He often attends birthday parties and events there, and his two-year-old son goes to nursery there.

The centre is a vital part of the Primrose Hill community, he said on stage.

“There are certain places that belong to and are used by everybody,” he said.

“Spaces where everyone can rent it out for their seven-year-old’s party or rent it out to organise a murder – whatever you want to do with it.

“Those spaces are becoming fewer and fewer as property prices rise, and every square foot is worth more and more money.

“Property developers are circling Primrose Hill, looking to turn everything into flats.

“We’d rather that didn’t happen to everything.

“You want to retain those places that everyone has a chance to use.”

The actor added: “Without the centre, where would my little Jack go? He’d be out on the streets.”

“Mugging,” Harry Enfield added.

Comic and actor Enfield – known for Harry Enfield’s Television Programme, starring alongside Kathy Burke as Kevin the Teenager, and Harry & Paul – lived in Primrose Hill for more than a decade before moving to Notting Hill.

He said his favourite thing about his old neighbourhood was Lemonia, the long-standing Greek restaurant in Regent’s Park Road. He still recognises many of the area’s residents, even after moving away nearly two decades ago.

The community centre is important because the Primrose Hill community is important, he added.

“We’ve learned out of doing the campaign how important the community centre is to a lot of the community at different times of their lives,” said fundraiser Dick Bird.

“People [are] saying to us: ‘Oh yes, I’ll support the cause, because when my children were little it was a godsend to us.’

“It’s great that it’s worked, and it’s confirmed to us how important the centre is in people’s lives.”

According to fundraiser Pam White, who organised the event, buying the lease will give the centre a new sort of freedom and security.

“In Primrose Hill, there’s a lot of deep pockets,” she told the Ham&High.

“Quite often, the people who give money are not the deepest pockets.”

After the new lease expires, it will be up to the next generation to decide if they want to continue with the centre, said Dick.

“Thinking about how Primrose Hill has changed in 25 years, no doubt it will change in ways we can’t expect,” he told this newspaper.

“But the need for people to get together and to have a space – it’s difficult to see that changing.”

He concluded: “I think they will want the centre to exist, even in the future.”

Share your memories of the community centre, and hopes for its future, on our letters page: letters@hamhigh.co.uk

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