January: darkened days, morning frosts melting into winter gloom, and an email sent around from the Meanwhile @ the Corrib organising team confirming that we’ve pulled out. We’re no longer going ahead with Meanwhile @ the Corrib community hub.

There’s a moment of mental disconnect when you receive bad news about something for which you’ve been holding out hope, however tenuous. Time seems suspended as your brain absorbs this disappointing information and then, with an almost audible click, the mental synapses spark to action, thoughts shift track, and the mind journeys towards a new destination.

So what happened? To put it simply, we lost faith that the owners of the Corrib were seriously committed to supporting the project. Through the many months of planning to try and get the premises up and running, there was a distinct lack of clear communication from the Corrib owners. Being a generally optimistic bunch (perhaps naively so) we gave them the benefit of the doubt...again and again. Finally, and following many weeks of delays regarding essential financial agreements, we were at a stand still. And so we decided that enough was enough.

Jump ahead a couple of months and the organising committee hold a meeting. It’s time to reflect on the Corrib journey and answer the question – what next?

There are some undeniable facts to consider: the overwhelming response from the community at the open meeting, the vast number of people who came forward with ideas for the space and offering to volunteer their time and knowledge, the variety of different community groups that were beginning to engage with the project and the mailing list of over 400 interested locals.  Michael Stuart, core member of Transition Town Kensal to Kilburn and the Meanwhile planning group, said that at the beginning he felt unsure about the project, that it was potentially “too ambitious”. However, the positive response from the public convinced him, and the rest of us, that there is a genuine need for such a community hub in our area. We are now determined to keep searching for a new space and pick up where we left off.

There are also some not so cheery reflections to be had. The discomfort of reflecting back over our mistakes is reduced by the fact that we know these are lessons learnt and therefore won’t be repeated next time. We now see the essential need for building a transparent and strong relationship with the owners of our next Meanwhile space right from the outset. Early access to the building is also now understood as the cornerstone for creating an accurate budget and all the clarity that flows on from this. It certainly would have helped our budgeting if we’d known sooner that the Corrib needed entirely new electrical certification.

But it wasn’t all bad news. Sophia Flucker, another core member of TTKK and the Meanwhile planning group, pointed out that, considering it was TTKK’s first attempt at a community hub, we managed to get a long way down the track to making it a reality. We moved beyond the idea and into the practicalities...we did more than just say we were going to do it, we got up and did it, albeit not successfully through to completion this time.

Another interesting experience was learning how we were able to adapt and respond to the unique characteristics of a specific place. The Corrib Rest has much larger proportions than we originally imagined for our first attempt at a TTKK Meanwhile space. However, the history of the Corrib as the heart of an existing community meant that we could rise to this ambitious location. In a sense we were becoming the facilitators of a reconnection of people with place. Through keeping an open, welcoming, positive and respectful attitude we were able to respond to the lingering emotional links between the building and its local community and, in many ways, valued this, and the wider community, over our own TTKK remit. This is valuable knowledge for us moving forward. The location comes first, the activities held there and community groups engaged with it work in response to this.

But what of the Corrib Rest? This place that we invested in mentally and emotionally for the last 6 months is not somewhere that we can walk away from lightly. The owners have sent the planned redevelopment of the space through to planning permission and there has been extensive conflict within the local community in response. One local group “Save the Corrib” are actively protesting against the proposed changes, which will see the large upstairs function room divided into residential flats as opposed to remaining a shared community space. TTKK, although a separate entity to the Save the Corrib Group are simultaneously in the process of drafting a letter to the Council expressing our concerns about the stewardship of the community space.

And so we are now searching for a new TTKK Meanwhile community hub. Somewhere in the Kensal to Kilburn area there is an empty building waiting for our vision to fill its vacant walls. A place that will be creative, welcoming, nourishing, experimental, grass roots and diverse. And hopefully have a recent electrical certificate...

March: Light glancing through the curtain cracks when the morning alarm goes off, green spears thrusting through London clay soil, intimations of the vibrant yellow trumpet blooms to come, and a blog posted on the TTKK website saying, “we are now searching for a new TTKK Meanwhile community hub” Watch this space!

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