In Conversation With: Acton Gardens Community Centre

Acton Gardens - opening day

Countryside catches up with Saloua Oussalah, centre administrator at the Acton Gardens Community Centre. A key part of Acton Gardens, Countryside and L&Q’s regeneration of the South Acton Estate in west London, the Community Centre was officially opened in July 2019 as part of a new hub for residents which is also home to a youth centre, dental practice, incubator workspace and local supermarket.

Tell us about the Acton Gardens Community Centre 
The Acton Gardens Community Centre is a brand-new community hub which only opened last year. Before the lockdown we hosted a variety of activities, including tuition classes, ballet classes, yoga, fitness classes, elderly lunch club amongst others. 

We also provide space for hire and we have had a variety of events taking place at the centre, i.e. the European Parliamentary election, mayoral events, birthday parties, graduation parties and much more. During the festive period, the centre put together and hosted a Winter Fiesta, where various fun activities were available for the community to enjoy and for which we had a huge turnout of community leaders, families and local stakeholders.

How long have you been involved with the community centre? 
I joined the team in April 2019 when the new centre opened, having previously worked at the Oak Tree Community Centre and I was very happy to join the new team. My role involves managing the day-to-day activities of the centre, ensuring the place is ready to welcome our visitors and dealing with administrative and financial duties.

How has the community centre been adapting to the current Covid-19 situation?
Since the lockdown began back in March, the centre was re-purposed to accommodate a foodbank and distribution hub, with operations being run in partnership with the Acton Covid-19 Mutual Aid group. Twice a week we opened our doors to a team of volunteers who were part of the sorting and redistribution process. Much of the donations came from various partners and were re-distributed to vulnerable families and residents as care packages. Our partnership with Countryside, who donated £15,000 to the centre, proved to be vital as their contribution played a massive part in us being able to provide residents with much-needed essential supplies. This fund was also put towards the purchase of arts packs and tablets to ensure digital inclusion and reduce the level of social isolation for residents. 

Having put in place various measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our visitors such as hand sanitising stations, signage reminding visitors to wear masks, social distancing and hand hygiene, the centre re-opened on the 1st September. 

How can local people get involved with the centre?
Throughout lockdown we organised a number of remote activities in partnership with local facilitators, such as Zumba and Street dance classes. With the centre now open again, those interested can get involved by checking our website and contacting the centre team for more information, and we will also be sending out regular newsletters so local residents are aware of what’s available. 

What is your favourite thing about Acton?   
I’ve lived in Acton since 2006, and what I like the most about the area is the multicultural community; you find many people from different backgrounds and faiths but everybody lives together. The area is vibrant, safe and pleasant to live and work in, and with the ongoing regeneration, is only bound to improve. 

What is your favourite local secret / hidden gem in the area? 
It’s not really a hidden gem, but I love Acton Park. This is such a great place to go for a walk, exercise or take the kids to play or for a bike ride. The park is quite big so there is space for everyone; there is a basketball court, tennis court, exercise equipment, games for kids and a skateboard ramp was recently inaugurated.

For someone new to the area, how would you suggest they get involved in the community?        
I think the best place to start would be the community centre. By taking part in activities, someone new to the area can get to know many of the local residents. Alternatively, we also recruit volunteers too, who can be involved in a wide range of different projects. Another option would be to join one of the various local groups on social media, which provide very useful information about what is going on in the area and how to get involved.