Mike Grimshaw discovers a new community hub in Leyton
At Bakers Arms, just a few yards from the crossroads, you may have noticed a glass sliding door bearing the words ‘The Common Room’ and wondered what on earth it was all about.
Dr Jonathan Collie is co-director of The Age of No Retirement, the community interest company that runs The Common Room. He defines it as a “purpose hub”; a physical space for people of all ages to make a transition from one career to another, or get into volunteering.
The Common Room started in Leyton at the end of September and opens Monday to Friday, 10am-4pm, and is free to anyone living in Waltham Forest. It may in future open on evenings and weekends.
By November there were 238 members, 90 of whom had created their own purpose plans – 30 wanting to start their own business, 24 to get a job, 22 to learn new skills, 24 to improve their networks, 27 to be more involved in common projects, and 31 to teach or mentor others (some of these overlap).
Other community centres tend to appeal to the very young or very old, but The Common Room seems to bring age groups together and fill the middle ground – it has found members are perfectly happy to be with other ages.
The confidence of many members has been knocked in the past and needs to be restored. The Common Room offers a curriculum, provides workshops in half-day sessions, and sets each person on a certain path. Each workshop is run by a staff member and is facilitated by Jonathan, who is a medical doctor by training and believes in storytelling, uniting all ages together, whole life courses, and design-led activity.
This venue is the second opened by The Age of No Retirement, the other being at King’s Cross. But membership of The Common Room in Leyton has grown at least twice as fast. Funding for the project comes partly from National Lottery and partly from Innovate UK, which was interested to find out whether it could help bring all age groups together. The goal is not just academic, but practical, to find a common pursuit of purpose – hosted by leaders who can bring people together.
The Common Room is based at Market Parade, 778-782 High Road, Leyton E10 6AE. For more information: