Silvertown use ‘Newham State of Mind’ to makeover community centre

A community centre in Silvertown was at the heart of a makeover with a difference last weekend.

In fewer than 48 hours the covered yard of the ASTA centre on Camel Road became a shared eating and recreation area with clay pizza oven, BBQ, a stage for dancing, a piano and a sandpit made from an abandoned bath, ending in a spontaneous New York-style block party.

The Momentum Project - a community group based in the Royal Docks and 30 volunteers from the Oasis Game, a social experiment developed in the favelas of Sao Paolo Brazil - had come up with the idea of asking local residents to dream up a project they wanted to see happen in their area.

However no one was under any illusions where the energy, hard work and commitment came from in the end: over sixty four to 14-year-olds from the surrounding estates.

From getting down and dirty in the garden, to painting decorative paneling, and foraging for old tyres and lavender in nearby wasteland, it was clear that the children of the area didn’t need much encouragement to get stuck in.

One of the highlights of the weekend was the arrival of a donated piano, which was then played by Hilton Leigh, a 17-year-old from North Woolwich, who had taught himself classical piano on a synthesizer at home.

The weekend climaxed with a rendition of Jay Z’s ‘Empire State of Mind’ converted to ‘Newham State of Mind’ by the children, and accompanied by Hilton, which a member of the team filmed and put onto YouTube.

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Saci Lloyd, a teacher at New Vic college and co-founder of the Momentum Project, said: “Newham is the most exciting borough in the country so it wasn’t all that surprising that this happened.

“The Olympics, regeneration, the green enterprise zone - the conditions are set for an amazing future city hub, but it’s starting with people from the local area. We can’t wait to do more.”

Generous donations from local businesses, including Tate & Lyle and B & Q, as well as sponsorship from Lush, the cosmetics company, also had their part to play in the feelgood factor.

For more information about the Momentum Project email or visit the revamped ASTA community hub by calling Tracy, the centre’s manager, on 0207 476 5023

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