On 31st May 2012, on the eve of the Jubilee Bank Holiday, Stockwell Primary School informed Lambeth Women’s Project that they had two weeks to pack up their belongings and leave.
Lambeth Women’s Project (LWP) is an umbrella organisation providing grassroots, community support to women and their families in South London for over 30 years. As the only women-only space in the local Brixton area it has been nothing short of a lifeline for many women. Over 150 women pass through the LWP each month, accessing services such as counselling, support for women who have experienced domestic violence, art and music workshops, health services, BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) groups and mentoring. LWP operates under a model that was designed to promote diversity and to educate and empower.
This page provides some background information about LWP’s relation to the building, the council, the school, and its history as a Charity and voluntary organisation.
LWP’s History at 166a Stockwell Road
LWP have been based at 166a Stockwell Road since 1979, and had sole occupation of the building till 2010. Documents from 2009 state that the building is owned by Children and Young People’s Services (CYPS)- a department of Lambeth Council. In 2009, the building had fallen into disrepair and had been flooded. It was not a safe building and LWP activities were disrupted.
The adjacent school, Stockwell Primary School (SPS) required more space. Money to refurbish the building was made available through the school’s modernisation fund. In 2010, Lambeth Council transferred the management of the lease for 166a to Stockwell Primary School. Under this change, a five year lease was granted to LWP and the two organisations began sharing the building. Under this agreement, LWP pay a peppercorn rent and SPS receive a service charge for managing the property.
At the time of being handed an eviction letter by Stockwell Primary School in early 2012, LWP still have three years remaining on the lease.
LWP’s History with the Council
Lambeth Council used to pay salaries for youth workers at LWP; this was cut in 1997. LWP currently has one paid worker who delivers services to young women on behalf of Lambeth Children and Young People’s Services (CYPS). LWP is coordinated and run on a volunteer basis.
In 2009, and under the request of LWP, CYPS undertook an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) to understand the impact of the shared agreement on the women’s group. Recommendations from the EIA were to be revisited in 2010 – this did not happen. Lambeth Council continue to respond to residents’ and press enquiries about this eviction threat with a no comment/ no responsibility reply – stating that this is a matter between LWP and SPS.
LWP’s History with Stockwell Primary School
Although the cohabitation of 166a Stockwell Road was agreed mutually in 2010, LWP have been made to feel increasingly unwanted by Stockwell Primary School. This has taken shape in a number of ways. Through removing the 166a number sign, alongside the LWP sign, Stockwell Primary School have made it difficult for visitors to find the LWP building. Though the lease agreement states that LWP would have access to the building from the front door, the school have added a new lock to the front and despite repeated requests, LWP have not been given a key. The code to the keypad on the back entrance of 166a was also changed without informing LWP. Effectively, this means LWP are locked out of their home of over thirty years unless they request access via the school.
Grievances from the school in their eviction letter include minor errors with use of space, unfair accusations of LWP exhibiting inappropriate materials, and a statement that LWP owes money to SPS- an inaccurate demand following an administration error by CYPS, which paid LWP a maintenance charge instead of the school. All monies were returned to the council body. Stockwell Primary School simply needs to raise an invoice to CYPS to receive this money – LWP is not involved.
The school agreed to consider independent mediation with the project but on Monday 18th June, with no prior warning, a new lock was added to the building and women were locked inside. The school called the police but were told they must give Lambeth Women’s Project access and keys to all locks. LWP are seeking legal advice and are clear that they are being unjustly treated and that their eviction will compromise the already hard hit services offered to women in Lambeth.
It can be speculated that the school, with the support of Lambeth Council, want sole access to 166a. There is a shortage of primary schools in Lambeth and it was announced last year that by 2015, the borough would need 800 extra places.
LWP’s History as a Registered Charity
LWP (also know as Lambeth Young Women’s Project) was registered as a charity in 1984. To maintain charity status, LWP must submit audited accounts for every financial year. Due to lack of funds, LWP have been temporarily removed from the Charity Register as they were unable to pay for their accounts to be submitted in time. LWP aim to submit their accounts again as soon as possible and be re-instated as a Charity.
LWP’s History as a Funded Organisation
Lambeth council terminated the salaried employment of youth workers at LWP in 1997. LWP continues to operate over the years through tenders for service provision, donations from women’s user groups, and volunteer support. Obstructions from Stockwell Primary School- such as denying LWP autonomous access through the front entrance of 166a Stockwell Road (a right outlined in the lease)- has put additional burdens on LWP in being able to effectively deliver its services.
LWP recognises the need for a secure use of premises, a clearer relationship with the council, and long-term fundraising strategies to safe guard LWP’s work in to the future.
LWP’s Actions against Eviction Threat
LWP and their supporters are mounting a campaign in the local community and online to resist this eviction threat. Actions have included nightly Pots and Pan Banging demos in Windrush square, public meetings at LWP, a protest outside Brixton Town Hall, strategy-building and well being workshops, and an eviction fund donations drive.
The Save LWP campaign has received press coverage from the Evening Standard, BBC News, Brixton Blog, Red Pepper, The F-Word, UK Feminista, Black Feminists, Bust Magazine and Diva.