Lordship Recreation Ground (the Rec) was officially opened on the 13th June 1936 and was an attraction visited and used by many families from surrounding areas. A beautiful park, which featured a nationally acclaimed model traffic area, outdoor Shell Theatre and water cascade. However, due to lack of funding, in the 80’s and 90’s, the REC had deteriorated and become derelict to the dismay of many local residents.
In 2001 local people set up the Friends of Lordship Rec. This voluntary community group came together to try to reclaim and transform the park and campaign for its regeneration. They organised events, festivals and volunteer days and obtained funds to improve areas of the park. Realising that the improvement was a huge task that could not, and should not, be done by one organisation alone, in 2002 the Lordship Rec Users Forum was formed, an umbrella organisation to engage local people in the future planning and development of the Rec. This umbrella organisation has been very effective in developing vision, coordination and partnerships and is still actively involved in the maintenance and development of the park and still regularly meets monthly at the Hub.
In 2008/9, due to the vast amount of community involvement in the Rec, the Council, with the help of the Friends and Back to Earth, put in a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for an extensive and complex regeneration of the park. A total of £7.1 million was raised to restore Lordship Recreation Ground. This was agreed in 2010 and included the build of the Hub. The project was completed in 2012 and local community groups were also actively involved in the design and construction of the building.
However, after completion of the project, it appeared to be impossible to find someone to manage the building due to its unconventional design, shared community use and isolated position and the Council’s tendering process was unsuccessful. The Friends called a meeting at which some members came forward to create a co-operative company and put a bid into the council, which was eventually accepted.
The guiding principle was to keep the building in the community, collectively run by and for the community. The organisation was officially named the Lordship Rec Eco-Hub Co-operative (LREH Co-operative) and the building became known as Lordship Hub. One member one vote!
When the co-operative first took over the running of the whole building in July 2014, there were no paid staff and the Hub was totally dependent on volunteers, e.g. members of the board who managed the strategic direction and financial health of the Hub, and those running the café and its rooms for hire. The café opened with an urn, a tin of coffee and some tea bags, some cake from the corner shop and a few fresh sandwiches made with delicious, locally made Turkish bread.
As it was the first time in decades that these facilities were in the park again, it generated a lot of excitement in the local community and people started using the park again. The footfall in the park increased rapidly with nowadays over a million visits per year. People started to enjoy the new facilities and wanted to be part of it and get involved with the park and the Hub.
In October 2014, the first member of staff was employed and others followed. It was not long before word of the Hub spread, and local people started to come in regularly to use the café and to attend activities, including classes mostly run by local practitioners, some of whom were just setting out on their own careers.
The Hub is now a regular meeting place for young and old and local residents enjoy the welcoming, open atmosphere.