The ‘what’ Centre?

Apr 11 2011 - 8:02pm

Published in:
By Joyce Rosser
Civitas Tottenham - The Newsletter of the Tottenham Civic Society

One response to Haringey Council’s draft Local Development Framework requested that the sentence about familiar local landmarks should be expanded to read as follows: ‘Some of the most familiar local landmarks include Alexandra Palace, Bruce Castle, the Selby Centre and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club’. The ‘what’ Centre? Is this a joke?

In fact it is quite serious. Sona Mahtani, the dynamic Chief Executive, says that ‘within the diverse communities of Haringey, most people facing disadvantages such as finding a job, seeking advice or undertaking citizenship training, are more likely to have visited the Selby Centre than Alexandra Palace or Bruce Castle.’ The Selby Centre is the second largest community centre in England. 33 charities and community groups of all ethnicities are based there. Many other community groups, sports clubs, faith groups and training providers regularly use its facilities. 1500 people visit the Centre every day. It is open 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Centre is situated on a 150,000 square foot site just off White Hart Lane. Many of the buildings date from the early 1960s and were built for Tottenham County School which moved here in 1963 from the well known Edwardian building near the Town Hall. In 1967 Haringey’s schools became comprehensive so Tottenham County School (a grammar school) became Tottenham School (a comprehensive). A sixth form centre and sports hall were added in 1972. In the 1980s Tottenham School moved off the site and became part of White Hart Lane School (now Woodside High School). The Selby Centre was originally run by the Council. In 1994 the Selby Trust (, a registered charity, was established. Its motto is ‘Many cultures, one community.’ It was recently listed as one of the UK’s fastest growing social enterprises. It generates 70 per cent of its own income.

The not-for-profit organisation 5E Ltd was set up at the centre in 1998 and delivers Train to Gain programmes in subjects ranging from health to information technology. It runs an employability skills programme aimed at disadvantaged learners including those who have been out of work for long periods or those with no qualifications. Last summer Ofsted hailed it one of the best in the country for helping hundreds of learners get ready for the workplace.

Special events take place at the Centre. Last summer 400 young people transformed the gym, revamped the sports hall and foyer and painted stylish pop art on the corridor walls. Others constructed a rockery, a sensory garden and a nature wall.

The Centre’s latest initiative is to turn the Centre into a ‘green hub’ with food growing, community gardens, recycling activities and a community energy lab. ‘Wood Works Wonders’ makes use of wood waste by collecting and recycling it and reducing the amount going into landfill. The project is run by Joel Minot, an experience eco-builder, and employs formerly unemployed people and local skilled carpenters to bring together trade skills and job opportunities and spread environmental awareness.

Sadly, as we went to press we learned that the Centre may lose its Council funding.

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