Arts centre launches ‘Winter Welcome’ programme in warm hub

Left to right. Liz Cranwell-Ward, Chloë Callow, Gwen Crossingham. Pic: Dara Coker

A Sydenham arts centre has set up regular creative workshops in order to provide a ‘warm bank’ for local people during the coming winter

Sydenham Arts is running the ‘Winter Welcome’ creative activities at their base at the Sydenham Centre, a community space run by Lewisham Council, until March 2023.

This includes a weekly workshop for people to learn new skills in the wake of the cost of living crisis. 

Sydenham Arts does not depend on council funding to hold creative workshops like libraries and some small cafés do so they have partnered with local businesses to raise funds. They also rely on the generosity of artists volunteering to lead the sessions.  

Artist Misa Gott and a volunteer. Pic: Dara Coker

The managing director of Sydenham Arts James Hodgkins said: “We have to raise a lot of the funding ourselves. We are very reliant on the generosity of other charity funders. We currently don’t have any money from local government so the constant thing is that we have to look for the next bit of funding.”  

Eastlondonlines spoke to regular users of warm banks about concerns over the crisis.  

Danielle, an elderly resident from Brockley said: “There are more events like this in middle class areas than in poorer areas. That is a downside. It’s a bit like volunteers for a library, the poorest areas are going to have less volunteers than the more middle class.”  

She added that: “Sometimes when you are worrying about where you are going to find your next meal, you can’t think beyond that, about what’s happening outside your front door. I think it does restrict people.” 

Catherine Jones, a regular attendee, from Forest Hill agreed with this, saying that these sessions are extremely helpful for people in need: “You can keep warm, you can have a cup of tea and you are not heating up your own house, which these days everyone is struggling with.”  

Local residents painting in the warm bank. Pic: Dara Coker

Queenie, an artist from Honor Oak Park said that those struggling should try to locate which warm banks are holding creative sessions, even though they aren’t easy to find. She said: “It was recommended to me by a wellbeing therapist, it’s about giving a purpose, and I find Mondays particularly hard.”  

Lewisham has seen their budget cut by 40% over the past decade, and have been told they have to reduce it by a further 20% by 2024. This means even less money will be allocated to charities and holding events like this will become even harder.  

These events bring people together in times of hardship according to Hodgkins: “Everyone is struggling with cost of living at the moment so I think to keep that sense of camaraderie is really important.” 

These workshops are taking place every week, and you can book your place here: 

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