The Bromley by Bow Centre marks its beginning with the arrival of Andrew and Susan Mawson in 1984. Andrew came as the Minister of the Church at a point when it was at a very low ebb with just a handful of members and an expectation that it would soon close or merge with another congregation…
1980’s: Pioneering days
Andrew found that a group of elderly members suggested the Church open it’s buildings for the community to use. The Church didn’t close, instead it gave birth to a broad range of dynamic projects including a children’s nursery, dance school, community cafe and a series of art studios and workshops.
There were a number of key pioneers in this initial phase including Chilean sculptor Santiago Bell, local artists Frank and Margy Creber, Sheenagh McKinlay, Paula Haughney, cafe entrepreneur Sue Fox and childcare pioneers Yvonne Begley and Steve Goode.
1990’s: The innovators
From the early 1990’s the Bromley by Bow Centre began to build a reputation for its model of community regeneration. This was based on the ideals of entrepreneurship, creativity, excellence and also the belief in the capacity of all human beings.
Key figures in this period were Allison Trimble and Zenith Rahman. The team grew and new projects arrived, particularly in the areas of family support, social welfare, the arts, social care and learning. Team members included Helal Uddin, Sister Helen Downe, Lilu Ahmed and Juanita Azubuike, as well as many of the original artists and staff.
1997: The big step change
The Healthy Living Centre, opened in 1997, was the first of its kind in the UK and allowed the Centre to provide universal services for the community. It also marked the point when the Centre took over Bob’s Park, a space of great value.
Another key moment in this period was the arrival of Helen Matthews as the Minister of the Church and Paul Brickell as Chief Executive. It was under Paul’s leadership that the Centre went on to develop the new cafe, workshops and offices, as well as the Tudor Lodge and Marner Centre in partnership with the newly created Poplar HARCA.
Rob Trimble took over as Chief Executive in 2002 overseeing expanding staff numbers and while developing a broad range of new partnerships. The Centre became an exemplar model for a “communities in business” approach, using enterprise as a tool for economic development in deprived communities. There were fresh initiatives in healthcare and expansion of the Bromley by Bow Health Partnership, reflected in Dr Julia Davis’ appointment as Assistant Chief Executive.
Together we have created a model for healthy, vibrant communities. We host regular national and international organisations who wish to emulate our approach.