Hammersmith reflections

This time a guest blog by Sian Alexander (Lyric Hammersmith)

Welcome back to our blog “Hammersmith Reflections” where our Trustees share with us their thoughts about Hammersmith United Charities and our local area. This time we have a special guest writing for us: Sian Alexander, Chief Executive of the Lyric Hammersmith. Keep on reading to find out more about the Lyric, what they do and their role as an organisation at the heart of Hammersmith.

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The Lyric has an extraordinary history in Hammersmith. There’s been a theatre on this site for more than 120 years – not quite as long as Hammersmith United Charities – but plenty long enough to be firmly rooted in our local community.

Forty-five years ago, the Lyric was threatened with demolition to make way for a new shopping and housing complex. There was a huge public outcry and, at the eleventh hour, the local council decreed that the Lyric’s exquisite Matcham plasterwork auditorium would have to be preserved and painstakingly reconstructed in a new theatre above the Kings Mall Shopping Centre, where the theatre stands today: a Victorian auditorium above a 1970s shopping centre and now with a state-of-the art 21st Century extension on the side.

So we owe our very existence to the people of Hammersmith, and it’s this history that gives the Lyric such a strong sense of community ownership. In response to this, we feel a real responsibility to play a leading civic role locally, opening up the arts and creativity to all, and ensuring the Lyric fulfils its obligation to be an iconic cultural hub for west London.

The Lyric Hammersmith. Copyright Jim Stephenson 2015

It’s three years since we reopened with our Reuben Foundation Wing extension which houses new education and creative spaces.  Working with our 9 partner organisations here at the Lyric – DanceWest, TriBorough Music Hub, Action on Disability, Amici, Musiko Musika, New English Ballet Theatre, TEAfilms, Turtle Key Arts and Zoonation – we run an extensive programme of creative classes and activities, after school and in the holidays with over 40,000 attendances by young people age 0 – 25 in the last year alone. We know that 40% of young people attending come from Hammersmith and Fulham and more than 80% from the west London area. We also work with local schools, providing artists in residence, teacher training and networks, and opening our spaces for workshops and performances.

Inclusivity is very important to us and we pride ourselves on being a warm, open and inclusive space in Hammersmith. We run a wide range of pioneering programmes to ensure that the arts are open to all young people including those who are marginalised in some way. This includes those who are not in education, employment or training; those who are in care; who are disabled; who are newly arrived; or in the criminal justice system. A brilliant example of this is our Journeys company of disabled and non-disabled performers who recently performed in our Evolution Festival of young artists, with the support of Hammersmith United Charities.

As Chief Executive of the Lyric Hammersmith I see first hand every day the power of the arts to change lives.

We are passionate about making sure that young people from all walks of life have the opportunity to explore and express their creativity, developing essential life skills such as confidence, team work and self esteem along the way.

But we’re also here for them if they discover a real talent and ambition to forge a career in the creative industries. We can help them find pathways into further training or employment and we provide a platform for young artists to make and share their work. The creative industries, after all, are one of the fastest growing employment sectors in the UK.

But if the Lyric is at the heart of Hammersmith, at the heart of the Lyric is our beautiful auditorium. We are very proud to be one of the UK’s leading producing theatres with an award-winning programme that has everything from bold and adventurous contemporary theatre to big musicals to London’s best panto. Oh yes we do!

But if the Lyric is at the heart of Hammersmith, at the heart of the Lyric is our beautiful auditorium. We are very proud to be one of the UK’s leading producing theatres with an award-winning programme that has everything from bold and adventurous contemporary theatre to big musicals to London’s best panto. Oh yes we do!

If you haven’t been to the Lyric before or would like to try something new, why not sign up for Free First Night? Every year we give around 2500 free first night tickets to people who live or work in Hammersmith or Fulham, many of whom haven’t been to the theatre before.

The Lyric is a charity, and grateful for the support of enlightened funders like Hammersmith United Charities. We’re also grateful for the support of the people of Hammersmith – by buying tickets, hiring our spaces and eating and drinking in our bar, restaurant and café you are contributing to all our work on and off stage and helping to ensure that the Lyric is a vibrant community resource for at least another 120 years in the future.

I hope to welcome you to the Lyric soon.

Sian Alexander
Chief Executive
Lyric Hammersmith

Hammersmith United Charities Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In line with Government advice, Hammersmith United Charities has invoked our Business Continuity Plan and implemented a new operating model focussed on keeping the residents of our Almshouses, our team, contractors and partners safe and well during the Coronavirus pandemic. (more…)

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The almshouse movement

So much more than affordable housing

With the average house price in Hammersmith at more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, it is no surprise that many workers are reaching retirement without the safety net of their own property. That’s why almshouses like ours, providing older people an affordable home in the community where they belong, are as vital now as when the movement began hundreds of years ago.

By Victoria Hill, Chief Executive – Hammersmith United Charities

 

The coronavirus has seen an outpouring of appreciation for key workers who leave the safety of their home to work keeping their community safe, fed and well. In the frightening early days of the first lockdown, we stood in the street and clapped for healthcare workers, carers, shop assistants, cleaners and more – all the people who put themselves at risk for the sake of others.

The contribution of key workers is rarely highly valued in monetary terms and these are often the very people who struggle to find an affordable home near their families and vital services as they grow older and become more in need of care themselves.

The average house price in Hammersmith is more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, and so it is no surprise that increasing numbers of workers are reaching retirement without their own property to fall back on. And with the average rental cost of a one-bedroom flat at two and a half times the state pension, it is easy to see how so many older people are also priced out of the private rental market.

With one in four older people in our area now living in poverty, the mission of almshouses like ours is as relevant as it was 400 years ago when Hammersmith United Charities was founded.

The almshouse movement has been around for hundreds of years but the Almshouse Association and the Charity Commission have only recently created a formal definition of what it means to be an almshouse. It describes exactly what we do here at Hammersmith United Charities.

Our charity was founded in 1618 with a gift of £100 to provide housing for the relief of the ‘elderly poor’ of Hammersmith. This gift has been added to and grown by generations of trustees and we now have an endowment and 92 flats on two sites just off the Goldhawk Road. These properties are highly protected and cannot be sold or used for any other purpose. Our residents must be over 60, have lived in Hammersmith for at least five years, be of limited means and in need of sheltered accommodation.

In human terms, our status as an almshouse means that the Charity can provide housing to the people who have often contributed most to our community but feel valued least. We believe that no one should be denied the opportunity to live in a decent home simply because they were never given the opportunity to climb the property ladder. The cost of our flats is regulated by statute to ensure that anyone can live here without causing hardship.

For us, almshouse living is about much more than just affordable housing. We know from research by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing that where we live and our relationships also have a significant impact on our wellbeing. For Hammersmith United Charities, what defines us is our ability to provide a home where people feel safe, in the place where they belong, surrounded by a community who values them for life, not just for lockdown.

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More information:

Over 60 and looking for a new home in Hammersmith? We provide beautiful, welcoming sheltered housing with award-winning communal gardens. Flats available now from £870 per month.

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H&F WINTER COVID APPEAL

UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council

As the UK struggles with rising rates of the virus and a second lockdown commences, many still need our help – including those going through mental health crises, suffering from loneliness and isolation, and at-risk children in need of educational support.

UNITED in Hammersmith & Fulham has launched the H&F Winter Covid Appeal in partnership with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to enable local individuals, businesses and foundations across the borough to support those most in need of assistance.

100% of funds raised will be donated to groups working with people who face risk because of coronavirus in Hammersmith & Fulham this winter.

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Nomad Radio: a lifeline for the Somali community

How one of our grants is keeping the station on the airwaves through the coronavirus crisis.

The UK’s only radio station for the Somali community, Nomad Radio broadcasts here in Hammersmith and Fulham. Community-led and bilingual, it’s just received a grant by Hammersmith United Charities to keep it on the airwaves through the coronavirus crisis.

(more…)

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