Tagged: SPI

A pillar of the community

We are incredibly proud to advise that Stanley Halls has been included as a case study in English Heritage’s hugely influential ‘Pillars of the Community’ booklet, or as we think of it, the bible for heritage asset transfer of buildings from councils to communities. 

Concert hall stage, Stanley Halls

The concert hall stage, the image English Heritage thought best represented Stanley Halls (image: Angie Davila).

We are one of only two examples in London, the other being our great friends at Battersea Arts Centre, so we are in good company. Have a look here. (Stanley Halls is on page 32.)

In the meantime, your ever-faithful, if increasingly weary, SPI board continue trudging through negotiations for the management lease for Stanley Halls and surveys with Croydon Council. This once seemingly never-ending stage now appears to be coming to a head with the Council’s Executive Director for Environment and Development now taking an active role in supporting the asset transfer. So things are starting to happen and SPI signing the lease and the community taking management of this wonderful community and historic asset is now on the horizon. A recent change in Council administration has also seen a new focus on arts and the economic development for South Norwood; this should be of great benefit to Stanley Halls and, in turn, we hope the Halls will play a significant role in turning around the fortunes of the area.

Thanks to very many of you for helping to get us this far. We’re so nearly there.

I leave you with a photograph of the freshly painted and stunning gallery at Stanley Halls – painted by 60 local teenagers from The Challenge Organisation, using colours discovered to have been previously used in this room.

Carol Clapperton, Chair, SPI   

Stanley Halls gallery

A photo can’t do it justice. The newly decorated gallery at Stanley Halls.


Livingstone I presume? No, 0208

Roy Shepard shares some fascinating memories of Stanley Halls of an idyllic childhood in South Norwood and yes, a Stanley link with Dr Livingstone……

The first time that I went to Stanley Halls was probably about 1951 at the age of four and a half.

I started to attend a small, mixed private primary school – the Park School – which was situated at the then large Victorian property which stood two doors up from from the corner of the road that leads down to South Norwood Lake from the junction of Auckland Road with Lancaster Road.  The school used the Stanley Halls for their P.E. sessions and we had a very bronzed, rather tall woman with bare feet, who wore khaki shorts and a short-sleeved top. She had short grey hair. I used to wonder how she didn’t get splinters in her feet from the wooden floor!

My sister, Ann attended Miss Ashe’s School of Ballet, Speech and Drama which was in the large property at the corner of the entrance to the present day school playing fields. The house was on the left as you face the entrance.
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Ann James (nee Shepard) as Alice in Wonderland at Stanley Halls

The playing fields were at that time a derelict 9-hole golf course which, before the Second World War, was constructed by the then South Norwood Sports and Social Club. The club was based in or near the Waterside Centre, by the  gates to the South Norwood Lake.  The golf course had been utilised as an anti-aircraft emplacement and the concrete and steel constructions had ruined the course permanently.

Miss Ashe’s school used to stage their drama productions in the theatre at the Stanley Halls and Ann, appeared as Alice in “Alice Through the Looking Glass”.  Much later, as a member of the amateur dramatic group run by the local St. John’s Youth Club, my sister took a leading part in a play called “Rain on the Just” and appeared opposite a chap called David Williams.

I have attended dances and socials at the Stanley Halls and I have been with my late mother to the Victorian Music Hall staged by the Croydon Stagers. I have also seen other people’s plays there. I was living in Upper Norwood at the time at number 22, High View Close, off Auckland Road.

01-07-2013 21;58;04-3One of my most vivid impressions of Stanley Halls was of the art gallery of rather quaint bucolic scenes of cattle grazing, rivers and trees. The marble pillars and Victorian decoration, especially the brass/copper flowers in vases on the roof edge and the cartouches, (profile plaster reliefs) of members of the Stanley family which adorned the right side flank wall, were lovely.

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Perhaps Roy was recalling ‘Cattle’ by Thomas Sidney Cooper, one of many paintings that graced Stanley Halls’ art gallery.
Image curtesy of Croydon Museum and Archives.

The whole building is redolent of a bygone age and with the Station Road Clock Tower presented to Mr and Mrs Stanley to commemorate their Golden Wedding Anniversary it stands as a memorial of a time when South Norwood was such a different place. Not better, just different.

The surrounding area was replete with small and medium sized shops selling everything from fishing tackle for anglers at South Norwood Lake, to shops selling meat, fish, bread, groceries, ironmongery, menswear, discs, flowers, confectionery, newspapers, books, magazines, model construction kits, stamps and cigarette cards for collectors, an estate agency and a chemist’s. There was also a private library run by a Mrs. Withy.

Willam Stanley lived at Cumberlow Lodge, which  was a secure unit for unusual offenders. That of course was after the Stanleys were dead and gone!

The family were related to Henry Morton Stanley, the American explorer who famously “found” David Livingstone in the heart of Africa. He wrote a book entitled “How I Found Livingstone” which was a bestseller. “Dr. Livingstone I presume” were his famous words on meeting with the explorer/missionary. That is the reason why our telephone exchange prior to Subscriber Trunk Dialling was Livingstone.


William Stanley’s relative, Henry Morton Stanley.
Image Creative Commons – Smithsonian Institute Library

The Stanley family manufactured mathematical, navigational, and all manner of precision instruments for Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s Civil and Government Services which, with the British Empire at the time was an enormous department of state. The factory was next to Norwood Junction railway station.

William Stanley was a very clever entrepreneur and was a local benefactor. I think that he would most certainly have approved of what SPI is trying to do as it is a truly community enhancing project.

It has been a great pleasure writing this.

Meet the management

As SPI celebrates its second birthday certain changes are needed to see us through to our third. SPI Chair, Carol Clapperton, introduces you to people guiding Stanley Halls’ future……

The final meeting of the SPI Steering Group in July 2013, held in a room that will soon be part of the new Enterprise Centre at Stanley Halls. Photo: Ken Baker

Happy birthday SPI, you’ve done a heck of a lot in your short life. From starting life as a group of interested local residents with a passion to take on Stanley Halls but no idea of what to do, to being on the verge of forming a charity which will open the Halls to the public later this year.

That takes a lot of commitment and hard slog. If nothing else, this project has shown the streak of bloody-mindedness in the people of South Norwood to get Stanley Halls open.

I want to thank all the 170 or so Friends of SPI supporting this project, and in particular the  20 of them who have sweated blood and tears to get it to this stage – the Steering Group.

It’s also a poignant time for us. With more than a few sobs we have just disbanded the Steering Group. Having 20 feisty folk making decisions on how to get Stanley Halls up and running is good at first, but for a business moving forward we now need a tighter board of 11. Fear not, we don’t lose all the skills of the former Steering Group; we have working parties galore and there’s too much talent there to let it slip through our fingers.

So, on one of the  first extremely hot days of this Summer we invited the Friends of SPI to vote for 10 of the places on a new Board. In a few weeks time this Board will become the first trustees in our new Charitable Incorporated Organisation which will run the Halls.  We had a fantastic 20 candidates, some new, some old hands. Let me introduce you to your new SPI board as elected by the Friends group:

Orlene Allen

I am an Accountant who has lived in South Norwood over 20 years. I am currently Deputy Chair of TEPERA (230 households) in addition to being its Social Secretary and Environmental Officer for the last 10 years.  I am also on the Steering Committee.  I have a passion for the Arts and bringing people together.  Stanley Halls represent the heart of a diverse Community which I passionately believe it can continue in an increasing capacity.

 Judith Burden (Secretary and  Cafe/Social Hub Leader)

Moving to South Norwood in 1970, I remember the Halls as a thriving venue. I have been secretary of SPI since its beginning, done research into some of Stanley’s paintings and I am working to bring the Gallery alive with Café,Bar, art exhibitions and lunchtime concerts. Before retirement, I taught music, lectured in Music Education, and was school governor for 10 years. I have been secretary of TEPERA for 20 years and established an No Cold Calling Zone for members. 

 Debbie Challis (Fund Raising Officer)

When I moved to South Norwood two years ago, I was immediately attracted to Stanley Halls and the potential that it has to be the heart of this community. I am a museum professional and academic (specializing in visual culture during the 19thC) and feel I have many skills to offer SPI. Since January 2013 I have been fundraising officer bidding for small grants and working hard towards getting substantial money from major funders.

Carol Clapperton (Chair and Enterprise Hub Leader)

I have chaired SPI from its beginnings as a keen interest group to where it is forming a charitable business and bidding for millions. I have lived in SE25 for over 20 years, for a couple of which I worked developing local business. So I want to see new enterprises in the Halls bringing money to the area. I’m experienced in project management, staff management, community engagement and developing community-led businesses.

Joanna Corbin

I have volunteered in South Norwood for sometime, which has given me insight into the aspiration of our community. I will work hard to engage and support the development of the Charity. I have been an avid volunteer with SPI. I have practical experience as a Trustee of Waterloo Action Centre and Holy Innocents Church.  I hope to add to the diverse melting pot of the Board as I am a Charity Solicitor.

John Coventon (Performance Hub Leader)

I have lived in SE25 for twenty years, after ten years in SE19.  I am a drama teacher, with thirty years in Croydon schools. I worked for eight years at the ILEA Cockpit Theatre & Arts Workshop in NW8. I’m a former chairman of London Drama, director of No Kidding (an integrated performance company) and author of Drama to Inspire. I believe Stanley Halls should be SE25’s community focal point.

Andrew Nelson

I am an accountant with considerable experience working for major financial institutions, mainly in the City of London.  I am also heavily involved in performing arts, film, animation and community work both in the UK and Jamaica.  I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Stanley Halls project. I believe the many benefits it will offer, such as a place for development of local arts and young people, is urgently needed. Since becoming part of the Steering Group in 2011, I have written or contributed to various policy documents.  I have also functioned as the central person compiling budgets and forecasts.

Deborah Russell

I’ve lived in South Norwood for many years.  I’m passionate about preserving history but want this to dovetail with much needed regeneration for the area – Stanley Halls is definitely part of that vision. I bring commitment, together with business development and programme management skills, as well as experience working for an international charity.  I now work for the NHS, where I have lead on a number of projects and programmes aimed at improving services.

Paul Scott (Vice Chair and lead for the Building and Heritage Hub)

As the chair of People for Portland Road I made the initial application to the Council calling for Stanley Halls to be returned to our local community. I’ve been involved ever since as SPI’s vice-chair, using my experience as an architect to design our development proposals and using my position as a local Councillor to secure our permission to go ahead.

David Somner (Marketing Group member)

I joined SPI in February 2012, I have been involved in the performance and marketing hubs; contacting performers that would like to come to the Halls, helping to formulate marketing strategy and helping selecting the box office system. I studied theatre at Rose Bruford College, I used to hire out theatre equipment to the local community, which is how I came to know the Halls. I worked at a similar community centre venue in the past. 

 Also, we have one  board place for a local Councillor standing in that capacity. We asked the 9 Councillors in the SE25 wards (South Norwood, Woodside and Selhurst) to nominate one of their members and Councillor Kathy Bee makes our final board member. Kathy is also SPI’s Treasurer and Leads the Community Hub.

You can email any of the above board members by using this link. We’d like to hear how you would like to use Stanley Halls.

What’s in a name?

SPI logoKhris Raistrick ponders the merit of a name change.

Remember when towns used to be ‘twinned’? I think the concept is on the wane now, mainly because people realised it was really just a wheeze for ‘dignitaries’ to go on ‘fact-finding’ jaunts around the world at the expense of the taxpayers. Preferably to the Maldives.

[OK, the truth is rather more prosaic. No-one in the UK, or the world for that matter, is twinned with anywhere in the Maldives. But fair play to the worthies in Coventry – twinned with 27 towns around the world. Special mention also to Leeds – the links with Ulan Bator in Mongolia are self-evident, surely – and Stevenage, whose burghers beat a regular path to Skymkent in Kazakhstan and, no doubt, vice-versa.]

But here’s a concept to tickle your tootsies…how about organisations twinning with each other? Middlesbrough is paired with Middlesborough in Kentucky, so why can’t the SPI join hands with other SPIs around the world?

We might learn something from each other…

After all, what’s not to glean, surely, from the Society for Philosophical Inquiry, a not-for-profit organisation promoting the discussion of philosophy? It must make sense. Well, once we’ve defined what ‘sense’ is, of course. Which might take some time, admittedly.

Software in the Public Interest, a not-for-profit organisation promoting free and open-source software, must surely have something to offer us, and us them. After all, we’re on twitter!

Don’t knock the Software Patent Institute either, an American not-for-profit outfit assisting in the correct assignment of software patents. [Why don’t these two become one?]

So far, so not-for-profit.

OK, so Shotmed Paper Industries, an Egyptian paper manufacturer, and Simulations Publications Inc., an American publisher of board war games, might present more interesting challenges when it comes to sharing an ethos, but we can do it, I am certain. That’s what twinning is all about!

A spanner in the works, however. At last week’s SPI Steering Group monthly meeting, it was mooted that the Stanley People’s Initiative might be better served in changing its name when the running of Stanley Halls is handed over.

That is no doubt a conversation that those connected with, or interested in, the SPI will be having in the coming weeks.

 It all starts with an SPI marketing sub-committee meeting at Yeha Noha on Tuesday at 7pm, led by SPI’s very own marketing guru and expert in all things 21st century, John Rother. All welcome. Just let him know.

Spookily, and no word of a lie, after the latest SPI session, and the introduction of the possibility of changing the name, I noticed, just round the corner from where I live, the letters ‘SPI’ in yellow on the pavement next to a lamppost.

I’ll bet you one thing. It had nothing to do with the  Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence!  

Jet setting down South Norwood Hill

Our intrepid communications lead Khris Raistrick heads north of the river and finally achieves his ambition of connecting South Norwood to St. Moritz….

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St Moritz or SE25? Bet we’ve got more lakes!
Image: ND Strupler

Well, it’s a tenuous link. Extremely so. Who, amongst our fine readership, remembers Peter Sarstedt, he of ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely?’ [and not much else] fame? The singer once graced Stanley Halls with his presence, and I managed to track down someone who was at his concert, Dave Victor. He remembers:

It’s now almost 30 years since I made my first visit to Stanley Halls, yet it’s an evening that I recall with enormous fondness. I am sure the reason I remembered this night, when I have forgotten so many others, isn’t because of the quality of the performance, or even the company of the friend who persuaded me to cross the river from my home in North East London. What I remember so clearly is the warmth and charm of this wonderful old venue.We went to see Peter Sarstedt, whose fame, following his main hit ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely?’ was fading fast. There were still plenty of tickets to be had at the door.”

 [Note to fellow SPI members – this is a phrase that will not be tolerated in the future!]

“Although I liked the song and was even known to sing along to his follow up number “Frozen Orange Juice,” I didn’t make my journey south with much hope or enthusiasm. Yet as soon as I entered the lobby my heart lifted and I knew this would be a pleasure, regardless of the quality of the performance. As it turned out, Peter’s understated delivery was perfect for the venue.

“Back then an evening at Stanley Hall was a multi-sensory experience.”

 [Note to fellow SPI members – this is a phrase that will be welcomed in the future…]

 “The architecture and decoration was a visual delight and the fact that so much was in need of attention merely added to its charm. The dusty smell and fragrant aromas reflected years of use and misuse. (These were the days when cigar, pipe and cigarettes were not outlawed in public and was very much part of the overall olfactory experience). The single spot light suited Peter’s up-close performance and cast tantalising shadows that meant the eye was left to discover hidden details around the hall.

“There is no doubt that South Norwood has a hidden treasure and one that must be celebrated. As someone that still lives on the north of the river, I feel a touch of envy for those who are fortunate enough to have such a gem on their doorstep.”

And the St. Moritz link?

Er, there isn’t one, really. Just a lyric from the famous song:

‘And when the snow falls you’re found in St. Moritz

With the others of the jet-set’

Perhaps we can re-write it one day and get the Stanley Halls summer season on the international social calendar!

Altogether now: ‘Your name is heard in high places…’


Bring on the mock rock

SPI Steering Group member, Khris Raistrick, gives an insight into what he wants to queue for at the new Stanley Halls.

Stanley exterior

The Stanley Halls

The past informs the present which shapes the future.

The Stanley Halls. There it sits on South Norwood Hill. A huge megalith to Edwardian philanthropism. A quirky set of public halls, seemingly bearing no relation to the mix of Victorian and modern homes surrounding it. Why is it there? What can we learn from it? What state is it in? What can we do with it?

It’s 2011 and a disparate group of locals have gathered. We stand back and stare at it, poke around inside, scratch our heads, hmm and say “you know, we can make something of this”. And now we’re blogging about it.

So, we’ll tell you ours if you tell us yours. Stories of Stanley of course! This is what we want for this blog, amongst any other thoughts, memories, feelings, dreams and schemes you may have about Stanley Halls. In an earlier incarnation of SPI communications, our quarterly newsletter – now overtaken by this blog as of today – there was a feature called ‘Stories of Stanley’. We will reproduce these in due course, starting with some fantastic memories from Ken Baker.

All very laudable, but why am I involved?

For my part, any contribution to the ‘Stories of Stanley’ series is not historical. But in a humble way, I hope I can help contribute to, as it were, future memories, future Stories of Stanley.

Indeed, it’s not even a story, but might explain why I am one of many volunteers working to make Stanley Halls a vibrant place once more.

When I chose to move to South Norwood in 2007, I looked around. Takeaways? Check. 23 in a 10-minute walk. Decent traditional butcher? Check. Good transport links? Check. Supermarket? Check. Library? Just round the corner from the clock tower. And so on. All mod cons were there except, for me, a place to…well, all the things SPI’s surveys have told us the people of South Norwood and beyond would like to see at Stanley Halls. Somewhere a bit arty, social, relaxing and somewhere to have a laugh.

My own take was on live music. There is a dearth of it in South Norwood, and even the Fairfield Halls only has spasmodic concerts. I checked out this mysterious but alluring venue on the internet – as it never seemed to be open – and saw that its capacity was 300.

Hmm…tricky. Having organised a few gigs before, I thought that 300 as a capacity was too big for small, ‘unknown’ bands, and too small for well-known groups who might command an audience of 1,000. So, having flirted with the idea of promoting concerts there, I gave up.

Fast forward to 2013, and a conversation with a relatively new but very welcome addition to the SPI Steering Group, John Treherne. John, by trade, really knows his onions when it comes to live performance. He works full-time in the business of live music and theatre, and when we had a post-meeting chat [no easy feat, because this particular session had been something of a marathon, discussing the finer details of how and when SPI would move forward with running this magnificent venue] I told him of my previous frustrations.

Immediately, he had the answer [or rather, one of many answers, because the SPI has no set agenda on what goes on in the Halls, only a desire to reflect the feedback that has been received – and live music is a major part of that].

“Tribute bands.” Two words, one of many possible solutions. There is a plethora of tribute bands these days that draw just the medium-sized followings that would suit the Stanley Halls. It is a popular genre these days, allowing fans of, say Abba – who will never reform, so my girlfriend says [and so do the band themselves] – to enjoy a decent replication of their music in a more intimate setting.

This is not of particularly personal appeal, but the point is this: We want to get the Halls used, and buzzing, and as our local venue, it might lead each one of us to do something we never thought we would do. I doubt I’ll be doing feng shui lessons at the Stanley Halls any time soon. But I might just be tempted by Australian Pink Floyd.