Step inside the Venture Centre on Wornington Road and the first thing that strikes you is just how much it is a hive of activity.
School-age children are led by a teacher out of the adventure playground and back to the classroom, while people are turning up for the regular over-50s yoga class. Workmen bustle back and forth, bringing in materials and tools for essential repairs being undertaken before half-term starts.
Overseeing this organised chaos is centre manager Gemma, responsible for arranging events, engaging with the community and developing new ideas and services to help local residents. “One of the schemes we’re working on at the moment is an employment workshop in partnership with The ClementJames Centre,” she says. “We work with local residents to create their CVs, improve their interview techniques and develop their maths, english and computer skills to help them find employment.”
It’s just one of the many initiatives that the centre offers, alongside education workshops, social events and a programme of fun exercise classes including zumba and line-dancing. But it is through the activities it puts on for children that most people will have their first taste of the Venture Centre. “We provide a free, open-access service, which means that any kids between the ages of five and 14 can pop in here anytime they like, something that is unique to the Venture Centre,” says Gemma. “We’ve got an adventure playground, table tennis, five-a-side football pitch and basketball court, and if a number of the children want to do a specific activity, we look at how we can help them with this.”
One activity that is proving incredibly popular at the moment is cooking. It started off with some simple cookery lessons with a handful of children, but was so in-demand that now up to 12 of them each day are taught how to make healthy, nutritious meals. It helps, of course, that the children get to eat the fruits of their labours afterwards.
“The children absolutely love the cooking, so much so that we’ve had to buy more utensils so that as many of them as possible can take part,” says Gemma. “And as they’ve learned about cooking, the children have also been more willing to try foods that they wouldn’t have eaten before. It’s fantastic that we can teach them about a healthy diet and then they can go home and put what they’ve learned into practice.”
Managing the Venture Centre is clearly very time-intensive, and it’s not just a matter of putting on activities. There’s an almost constant programme of maintenance to oversee, with both Catalyst and Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council providing ‘match funding’ for repairs currently being undertaken. These will ensure the property stays in good shape until a new centre is built as part of the regeneration of Wornington Green.
It’s clear that many local residents already benefit from the services and activities that the Venture Centre provides, but there’s plans for even more. “We’re investigating the possibility of running a full-time crèche at the centre,” says Gemma, “so we would encourage anyone that thinks they would benefit from this or any other services to get in touch. It’s a superb amenity that is here for residents to make the most of, and we want to see as many of them here as possible.”
Are you interested in taking part in any of the activities organised by the Venture Centre? Then why not pop into the centre at 103 Wornington Road, or visit www.venturecentre.org.uk for more information.