Chloe Holmes: Elizabeth House centre director

8 Apr

Everyone has a story. Elizabeth House – part of Islington’s community hub network*– is getting a spring makeover that looks set to see even more locals making use of the classes, classrooms and after-school clubs says new director Chloe Holmes. So where is Elizabeth House? Interview by Nicola Baird.

Chloe Holmes: “Look at Elizabeth House’s lovely hall! On Wednesday mornings from 9.30-10.30am there’s an active women’s fitness class and it’s free. It’s open to everyone too, so I go. Last week my legs really ached. This week it’s my arms that hurt.”

Chloe Holmes: “Look at Elizabeth House’s lovely hall! On Wednesday mornings from 9.30-10.30am there’s an active women’s fitness class and it’s free. It’s open to everyone too, so I go. Last week my legs really ached. This week it’s my arms that hurt.”

“We’re a giant blue building off one of the major roads in Islington, how can people not know we’re here?” asks Chloe Holmes with amusement. Since November 2014 the 24-year-old PPE* Oxford graduate has been running Elizabeth House on Hurlock Street. There are more than 60 people using the class rooms in Elizabeth House the morning of her Islington Faces interview, many from City & Islington College. But from April this relationship ends.

So Chloe’s challenge is to keep Elizabeth House busy.

NEVER MISS AN ISLINGTON FACES: if you enjoy reading about people who live or work in Islington please follow this blog by email (see how on right hand panel). Fresh interviews are published once a week. 

Activities at Elizabeth House. Photo Elizabeth House.

Activities at Elizabeth House. Photo Elizabeth House.

“The thing we do really well is be a real hub for children, young people and their families,” she explains. And that’s why Chloe’s a great choice as the new boss – having spent the past two years as a secondary school English teacher at Elephant & Castle. “I loved teaching and really identified with Teach First*. Teaching has a social mission addressing disadvantage, but I was so busy trying to teach English to the children that I wasn’t making the change I wanted.”

Second Chance Charity Shop on Blackstock Road is my favourite. They always look out for roller skates for our Thursday roller discos. Anyone can come after school, from 4.30-5.30pm. It’s £1 and there is a DJ and disco lights!

Second Chance Charity Shop on Blackstock Road is my favourite. They always look out for roller skates for our Thursday roller discos. Anyone can come after school, from 4.30-5.30pm. It’s £1 and there is a DJ and disco lights!

Places Chloe likes in Islington
I’m quite new to Islington – and live in Whitechapel – but I’ve always known Sadler’s Wells because I love ballet. I still like Sadler’s Wells and the way it does things like give tickets to families who never have gone to dance before.

Since joining Elizabeth House my track through Islington is from Canonbury Station down to Finsbury Park where I shop in Lidl and hand out flyers for our latest events.

Highbury Fields is really growing on me. Sometimes we take the holiday club kids there as there is lots going on and it’s a lovely space with the café and playground.

I’ve tried to travel around Islington and meet people. Wherever I go there are lots of lovely pockets of green like this one on the Blackstock Estate. And with the blossom and daffodils you can’t beat that feeling that spring is nearly here.

Second Chance Charity Shop on Blackstock Road is my favourite. They always look out for roller skates for our Thursday roller discos. Anyone can come after school, from 4.30-5.30pm. It’s £1 and there is a DJ and disco lights!

Highbury Butchers has given me a new-found love of local business. I’ve started going in nearly every Friday to get bacon for weekend brunches, and always end up picking up extras as everything is so delicious. (See the Islington Faces interview with Highbury Butchers’ David Mayers here).

Elizabeth House off Hurley Street.

Elizabeth House off Hurley Street.

Planning activities
Though this job came up by chance – she was interviewing for another job but didn’t have the corporate experience –it seems the perfect match for Chloe, who is a proper dynamo despite the size of her tiny office. “It’s the sunniest room,” she admits “and has a view of the blossom on the Blackstock Estate.” Even though it’s home to around 2,000 people, the estate is utterly quiet on a midweek morning, but it’s clear Chloe’s thinking of ways to make Elizabeth House really useful to anyone close to Finsbury Park, not just families on the estate and in the Highbury West ward. Plans include:

  • “We offer really flexible childcare – so parents can call at 3pm to say they are stuck in a meeting and we’ll pick their kids up. We will soon start taking reception age children to our after-school club,” she says. The after-school club runs Monday to Friday with a really experienced play worker team, run by James Pomeroy and is chiefly used by St John’s Highbury Vale, Gillespie and Parkwood families. Holiday clubs are open to all children aged 5-13, most of whom are from local schools.
  • Expansion of the youth club for 11-18 year olds. “There are two session as week, on Monday and Wednesday, 6.30-8pm. The programme is designed by the young people so we have been looking at making a homework space, running a dance workshop and running a girls’ fitness class.
  • A community garden project – launching on 10 April. “It will start with flowers. The after school club will get it going and tenants on the Blackstock Estate can join in,” explains Chloe.
  • New IT courses where you build your own computer. “You can learn so much on line, but where else can you build the hardware and see what RAM-drive looks like?” asks Chloe.
  • Equipping the kitchen with more hobs to enable more people to cook and more community groups to run courses.
  • Making the computer room – with its 15 computers –available for job hunting. “It could be somewhere you come to search for vacancies, print things off, ” says Chloe. “We want more people to see the hub as a place where information is centralised and easily accessible . We have so many projects and opportunities that people ask us to promote – but no one to promote them to!”
  • Hot-desking opportunities in a shared workspace for consultants and freelancers.

Elizabeth House trustees

Elizabeth House trustees (l-r) Mary Dakin, Carol Glover (chair), Hayley Jordan, Stephen Coles [vicar of St Thomas’ see Islington Faces interview here] and Jeremy Corbyn MP. (c) Elizabeth House.

We all know that juggling work and childcare can be so tricky – and can be that much harder if you are job hunting as you mind children – so the support Elizabeth House gives to young people and their families should be lauded. It’s great to see that the trustees have put their trust in a 20something to ensure this vital community hub has the right energy to keep flourishing. Good luck to you Chloe.

  • Could you be a trustee for Elizabeth House? Ideally you’ll have experience in human resources, finance or fundraising. If you’re interested contact Chloe at the office.
  • Classrooms, kitchen and the hall can all be rented per hour. Fees start at £10 + VAT, see the price guide on the website. http://elizabeth-house.org.uk/

Words*
Islington Community Hub network (octopus) provide space and resources around the borough for activities like access to wild spaces, volunteering, helping older people, helping people into employment and developing careers, youth projects etc. Current members are Elizabeth House Community Centre plus Caxton House Community Centre, The Factory Community Project, Hanley Crouch Community Centre, Hilldrop Area, Holloway Neighbourhood, Hornsey Lane Estate Community, Mildmay Community, St Luke’s Community, The Peel Centre, Whittington Park Community Centre. More info at http://www.octopuscommunities.org.uk/our-projects/community-hubs/
PPE – politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford is a tough degree favoured by students planning to make a career in politics (eg, David Cameron, Ed Miliband) or journalism. See why here.
Teach First – an organisation that trains people to become teachers. See http://www.teachfirst.org.uk/

Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.

If you liked this interview please SHARE on twitter or Facebook or join the Facebook group. Even better follow islingtonfacesblog.com (see menu top right) or follow me on twitter @nicolabairduk

This blog is inspired by Spitalfields Life written by the Gentle Author.

If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at the A-Z  index, or search by interviewee’s roles or Meet Islingtonians to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola

 

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