Another month, another session of Chapeltown Conversations

This month we were a small-but-perfectly-formed group in the lounge at the West Indian Centre. We covered quite a lot of ground, but the main topic of conversation was:

Is there a sandwich delivery van from outside Chapeltown serving the workers and users of the Reginald Centre? And, if so, what can we do to get people to use local businesses instead?

The second question is something we’d like to work on anyway, regardless of the rumoured van, but we had fun planning lots of ideas.

Concerns and opinions:

1.The Reginald Centre replaced a community centre and a pub. It removed local community space, social space and a local business. During the ‘consultation’ around its development

  • the community was led to believe that there would be space inside for the community to meet – there isn’t
  • we repeatedly said there ought to be a catering concession for a local business. They refused to even put in utilities to allow for it in the future.
  • the community was led to believe that it would bring lots more people and therefore business to Chapeltown. Somehow that hasn’t happened either.
  • Non-committal but vaguely positive noises were made about our requests to employ local construction workers to build it. Needless to say, none were.

2.The Reginald Centre has an image problem – a very large proportion of the community is annoyed with it, while a smaller proportion (at least including me) hates it and everything it stands for: a massive manifestation of state control in the middle of our community, a carbuncle of a building totally out of keeping with the area (which must cost a bomb to keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer) and the ongoing insult of ‘consulting’ us, with no intention of ever taking into account any of the comments or feelings expressed

3. The Reginald Centre brings loads more cars (read rush hour congestion & pollution) into the area, of people who are just too scared of Chapeltown to leave the building and are reassured by the enormous spiky fence that defends them against us. This doesn’t make us happy. This is based on direct experience of chatting with people inside.

4. If there really is a sandwich van coming in from outside the area, this is a double insult to local businesses and people – actually taking money out of the local area, despite repeated pleas from us all to support local business.


General ideas we had for getting Reginald Centre users to venture out into Chapeltown:

(NB – some of these ideas could be developed through the Chapeltown Enterprise Network being set up this year by CDT & Unity Enterprise)

  • create & distribute a directory of local businesses
  • distribute the menus from local eateries all round the area – each cafe and food shop to have menus of the others.
  • Make ‘support local business’ postcards, stickers, etc.
  • Make ‘I love Chapeltown’ bags, stickers, badges, etc.
  • Make ‘I love Chapeltown’ brown bags (the ones take-aways come in) for shops to use instead of carriers – I love Chapeltown on one side and ‘suport local business’ on the other. Or maybe do it with stickers.
  • Produce a flier to distribute inside the Reginald Centre, explaining why they ought to come and use local businesses (including about the image problem), with a list of local places to buy food and stuff about the credit union and benefiting the local economy.
  • Distribute ‘I pledge to use local businesses for my lunch’ pledge cards, particularly inside the Reginald Centre.
  • Do walking tours of Chapeltown – architectural, cultural, social
  • lunchtime walking buses – meet in the lobby and all go to the cafe together
  • offer ourselves as lunchtime buddies or mentors, to help people learn how to cope in Chapeltown
  • produce a youtube video sketch – ‘Scared of Chapeltown Anonymous’ therapy group
  • Or create the meme ‘shit dumb people say about Chapeltown’ (apparently this type of thing is a trend at the moment)

Ideas we had about a sandwich van campaign:

  • Find out the following stuff:
  • Is it real?
  • Is it from outside Chapeltown?
  • Is there a contract for it?
  • Does it need permission? If so, from whom?
  • If there IS a contract or permission:
  • Write to whomever’s responsible explaining our disappointment and explaining that they must give the contract to a local business.
  • If they don’t respond, ask for a meeting to discuss it
  • Bring to the meeting: Marcia, Sheila Grant, Amanda B, Gary Taste, Cantors, Medina guys, YK Deli, Old Post Office guys, CC continental guys
  • If they don’t take us seriously, write an open letter to the paper, combined with a petition
  • If there ISN’T a contract or permission, I suggest that local businesses get their van in there first and two or three of us can join it each day, to encourage people to use that van instead, with fliers, etc. To be fair, we didn’t discuss this last point in the conversation, i’ve just added it on.

We had a bit too much food, as usual, and shared it with the dominoes players.