During the 1970s there were women’s centres in most London boroughs and throughout the UK. They provided essential life-saving services as well as a hub for women to organise and campaign for issues relating to gender equality. Many of these centres were funded by local authority grants but as the grant-giving environment has diminished, especially in the past decade, most have been forced to close:- over 75% of women’s organisations in London had to reduce or close services by March 2013 (Women’s Resource Centre).
Some of us decided that there had to be a different way of providing women’s centres. We had the idea that we could fund centres by also constructing housing. If this proves successful then the idea could be replicated across the country.
In October 2013 we were offered a site in St James St E17 7PJ by London Borough of Waltham Forest under the provisions of the Localism Act. Our architect, Anne Thorne, produced preliminary plans and we were working with our developer, Bernadette Cunningham of Thornsett Group. Our patron, Stella Creasy MP, worked with us on this video link to video fundraising to help with the initial costs of the project. Long-term the model is self-sustainable financially.
You can download the current proposals for the St James St site here Proposal for St James St by Anne Thorne Architects Partnership for Rooms of our Own
Our idea is that the building will be designed in 3 zones; a cafe, reception and resources area open to everyone; a hot-desking and creche area where we anticipate most of the users will be women; a women only zone where charities working on issues such as domestic violence will be based.