Dec 6 2012 by Hannah Bewley, Harrow Observer
The enthusiasm is catching at a new enterprise which has a wealth of ideas to involve local people in cultural and sporting activities. The Albert is on the site of the former Royal British Legion headquarters in Albert Road and a neighbouring building.
People-orientated ideas include a artists’ space, green space, allotments, a ball park and performance areas.
Some are up and running and on Saturday the first Kensal to Kilburn market was held at the huge premises, with the organisers hoping it will become a weekly event in the new year.
A Christmas-themed night market is due to take place today (Thursday), livened up with music and performances.
A host of partners, organisations and community groups are involved and The Albert has financial support from Brent Council – which commissioned the project – until next summer.
By then, those involved are hoping The Albert will have become such a part of daily life in the area that community members will keep it going through daily, weekly and monthly activities.
The enterprise is being run by architecture practice What if: projects Ltd, which is experimenting with a new way of running community centres.
Director Ulrike Steven said: “We are so lucky to have such a huge space and creative people are allowed to use the space at a very low cost and in return they offer classes to people in any subject, they have a weekly quota they have to fulfil.
“It is an experiment to see whether this is how a community centre could function. We have a whole host of people with so much skill and talent, but not necessarily a lot of money to rent space in London, so this is the perfect solution.”
The site is made up of two buildings. The main one, known as The Hub, will provide a cafe, kitchen, artists’ space, green space, allotments and a ball park where anyone can turn up and play.
The other is the Showcase Building, where there will be exhibition space and performance areas.
Hanna Gillgren is part of choreography company h2dance, which will be working from the site and offering classes.
“We are putting on performances and we will also be based there with a full time studio for the longevity of the project,” she said.
“We are planning a Valentine’s performance in February as well as the one on Saturday. We are going to have a film night with acclaimed dance films. It’s great to have such a big space and there is a really nice vibe there as well.”
Group members performed at Saturday’s show.
As well as classes for the community and recreational space, events such as the market aim to ensure it becomes a well-loved centre.
Can Can Productions is in charge of engaging with people in Kilburn and Kensal Rise and organised the markets.
The company has set up a radio station which will be recorded at The Albert, and is working with South Kilburn Studios to encourage people interested in music to create a show to be broadcast to the local community.
Caren Owen, of Can Can, said: “I keep saying it is more than a market, it is a prelude to a regular market.
“We want everything to be run by local people. We will help facilitate everything at first, but we hope it will become a community-run thing.”
They will also bring out a newsletter called The Echo each month to keep people up to date with what is going on with the project and give residents another way to become involved.
Caren added: “A market is really good for bringing everyone together, but there will be workshops and more opportunities for people to have fun and be creative. It will make people feel more connected to their area.
“It’s a huge space, so people can come and do anything, play ping-pong, do something creative. It will be run by artists, so there will be loads of options and workshops.”
The enthusiasm among people running the site will surely infect Kensal Rise, Kilburn and beyond and everyone is being encouraged to make the most of the opportunities while they are here.
The Albert buildings have been earmarked for sale by the council so the contract only runs until June.
Any agreement with developers will ensure that the creatives and community can use the buildings for as long as possible before the land is redeveloped.
n For more information and a programme of events, visit www.thealbert.org.uk.