A couple of us went along to visit the Crossroads Women’s Centre in Kentish Town today. We had a chat about the kind of work they do and all the different groups and projects they have going on there. And, well, it’s amazing! The work they do incorporates international politics while also engaging in a practical way on local issues. They seemed excited by what we’re doing and will be coming down on 13th, someone from Queer Strike (an anti-capitalist queer group) will be doing a workshop on the day, which we’ll be able to tell you more about on the day. Anyone local to the center should definitely pay it a visit (25 Wolsey Mews NW5 2DX), and in the meantime just have a read of their history:
The Crossroads Women’s Centre began as a squat in Drummond Street near Euston station in 1975, opened by the Wages for Housework Campaign. As far as we know, it’s the oldest women’s centre remaining in London and possibly in the UK. The charity, Women in Dialogue (WinD), was created in 1976 to run the Centre.
In 1978 the area was redeveloped and we were evicted. But we had wide local support: from other squatters including Bengali families we had worked with to get housing and protection from racist attacks, from community groups, and from local business people.
A determined contingent of women of different races, ages and backgrounds walked into Camden Town Hall to claim a new space. One of us chained herself to the first floor balcony and dramatically unfolded yards and yards of a petition with thousands of signatures demanding a women’s centre.
After a year in limbo, Ken Livingstone, then Camden’s Chair of Housing, agreed to give us a small rundown empty shop at a token rent. It became the King’s Cross Women’s Centre, and was home for 17 years.
In 1995 this area too was redeveloped. We couldn’t pay the expected commercial rent, and despite local protest we were evicted.
But unlike centres which closed down when funding stopped, we were saved by the dedication and commitment of volunteers and supporters who had always had to manage on a shoestring. We spent over a year at a youth centre and a church hall which kindly gave us space in their premises. We finally moved into our present Centre in 1996, thanks to a sympathetic landlord.