Hub manger Charlotte shares stories from the 12-week Creative Homes hub in Mitcham that ran from January to April 2017, in partnership with L&Q housing association.
We are often overwhelmed by how a group like this can bring a community together but our Mitcham hub had a particularly memorable ending. Through our group sessions and craft packs delivered directly to family homes –seeing our cress farms growing on windowsills, children greeting us at the door with their troll masks and parents turning up at the hub with photos they’ve taken during the week – we really felt the impact we were having on bringing the family community of Wandle Valley together.
It’s a freezing cold January afternoon and I’m walking around the housing estate in Mitcham flyering for our upcoming creative home hub sessions. I’m hoping that despite my big warm coat, residents will know I’m from Creative Homes in my yellow headscarf and green trousers.
The next day we’ve finished setting up for our first hub session. There are pots of paint ready on small tables and a big cardboard den sitting near it with crayons and collage materials inside. Cushions, blankets and a pile of books are in one corner. There is an easel with a chalkboard on it at the other end of the room and a long blue rug running through the middle of the room.
“I hope families come”, Emma my colleague says.
“Me too”, I say looking at our set up as the “Rainbow Song” plays from our speakers. Ismeil walks past with his son Kamran (3).
“Hello, welcome” I say as they come in. Kamran runs straight over to the den and picks up some tissue paper and we give him some scissors to start cutting.
“ We don’t go to any other playgroups, this is the first one we’ve come to” Ismeil says. “My wife is about to have our third child, this is great for us to give her a bit of time whilst she rests”. Ismeil looks over to Kamran, “oh he’s not allowed to use scissors at home, that’s why he’s so excited”.
I look over, Kamran is opening and closing the scissors in the air as fast as he can and laughing.
Ayla shows me the cress farm her and her son Sam (4) made the week before.
“It’s the first thing he does when we get home and he loves showing his sister when she gets home from school”, she says smiling.
“As part of our animal theme, this week we’re making spiders webs” I tell the families in the room and hand Zaira a large plastic hula hoop and some string.
She sits on the floor with her daughter Dahlia (2) and they start wrapping the string around the hula hoop. Maria, Mehmet’s grandmother sits on a small chair holding Zelda (1)
“Look Zelda, look what they’re making”, she says.
Its 11am, snack time. Emma brings out the spotty table mat and puts it on the floor. She arranges chopping boards around the mat and plastic coloured cutlery in the middle of the mat.
‘Wash our hands, wash our hands’, we sing together, whipping our hands with wet wipes.
“Today we’re making spiky hedgehogs” Emma tells everyone as she comes out from the kitchen with a tray of cocktail sticks, cheese, pineapple and apples.
Sadie and Paul are feeding their daughter April (6 months) bits of pineapple. “I thought she would find this too acidic but she’s really enjoying it”.
Kamran is sat on his own on the opposite side of the mat from his mum sister and new baby brother. He picks up a cocktail stick and pushes a square piece of cheese and then a piece of pineapple onto his stick. He then pushes this into his apple. I haven’t seen him so concentrated before. His mum Katherin is feeding his brother Ali (4 weeks), her daughter Lisa (2) is sat on the floor by Katherin, eating bits of cheese. She stands up and walks over to another child’s chopping board and starts to eat their cheese. Lisa walks over the mat and takes food from another chopping board. Her mum pulls her back. Lisa starts to cry ‘No no no no’ and moves back over to the middle of the mat her hand reaches out to lumps of cheese and pineapple on chopping boards.
“Lisa no” her mum says. Lisa starts to cry again. ‘No no no no’ she lies on her back and starts to roll from side to side screaming.
At 11.45 the families come in from playing outside “craft packs craft packs” all the children run over to me at the table. Dahlia holds out her cotton bag with the creative homes logo that she stamped onto it in the first week. I put an instructions sheet, a small lump of clay, googley eyes and some twigs in it. “Can I take another one for Dan, she feels left out when she gets back from school, she asks.
The door opens and Katherin comes in pushing the pushchair with Lisa and Kamran, they’re 10 minutes early.
Kamran runs right over to the tables and sits down. Lisa follows him and pulls herself into a chair. Kamran picks up the clay and starts pushing his fingers into it. Katherin walks over sits down and joins them.
“Today we’re making wiggly worms”, Emma tells them as she sits down with them, 20 minutes later two more families are sat around the table rolling and cutting the clay.
“I would have never have known how many families live on the estate without this playgroup” Katherin says.
“Me too”, says another parent. “We’re new to the area and looking to connect to local activities”.
Katherin is pushing the pushchair with Lisa and Ali in it, Kamran is walking next to it holding on. “Hi Katherin” I say, “you’re 30 minutes early today, I’m afraid we’re still setting up, we start at 10am”.
“Oh ok, we’ll go for a walk around the green park area and come back”, she says.
A new family arrive, “thank you for knocking, and reminding us, we totally forgot with it being the Easter holidays”.
Dahlia is pointing to the big hedgehogs decorated with shredded paper “ this is what we made one week and ate cheese and pineapple on a stick”
It’s our last group session and everyone is sitting around the picnic blanket in a circle. Dahlia is cutting a yellow pepper and adding it to her rainbow snack on her chopping board. Lisa is sat in my lap watching the bowl being passed from one person to the next. She takes 4 grapes when it gets to her. Ali starts to cry in his pram. “I’ll get the baby’ Dahlia’s grandma says to Katherin who’s sat on the floor helping Kamran cutting his apple.
‘Tidy up tidy up its time to tidy up’ I sing. Its 10 past 12 and I turn the song up. “I’m afraid we’ve finished, its our last session” I look over to the table.
Seven children are sat around it their hands covered in salt dough with their parents stood over their children at the table leaning in to help roll the dough, making “chapattis”.
Its 12.30 and all 7 families are still in the room. A mum goes over and hugs Kamran, “come over and play at ours sometimes”, she says.
Katherin and a mum are exchanging phone numbers. I hand Sadie a tissue and she wipes her eyes.
Zaira hands me and Emma a gift bag with chocolate and a card
“Thank you so much for the playgroup”, she says, “Dahlia is going to be really upset next week when she asks why we’re not going, we’ve loved coming here”