All Souls Clubhouse grew out of the community outreach programme at All Souls Church, Langham Place, and opened in 1958. The Clubhouse runs its own small church, works with the elderly and provides services for young people and families. David Kennet has been general manager of the clubhouse since 2005.
“All Souls is a ‘gather’ church rather than a Parish church, and that’s reflected in our parishioners. Three thousand people come through All Souls Church on a Sunday, but only around 20% of those are folk who live or have lived in Fitzrovia. It’s always been multicultural and diverse here, but the growth in numbers of students and the international congregation has been marked.
There has been a change in the residents we see at the Clubhouse too. Our focus has always been on those in social housing, but the area, and the provision of housing in the area, is changing. The pre-schoolers we see are more likely to be dropped off by a child-minder, and their parents are more affluent than when we first started. We are serving a lot of older people, but not because there are more around, but because of the lack of other service providers and other lunch club closures. We haven’t seen so much change in the youth – a lot of those would be Bangladeshi Muslim.
This is Central London - whether religious or not, there are a whole multitude coming through the area. This centre interfaces with the whole community - we used to take a lot of our older folk to the Synagogue for films and tea, and even if you just take the other Christian groups, round here we see Greek Orthodox, Evangelical and ‘old style’ Christian communities.
I think Fitzrovia will change further. With High Speed 2, it will become like we’re living at Heathrow - with more of a transient population and a growth of the already large student population. At our Sunday night homeless drop in there are less drug users, older rough sleepers or people with mental health issues, and more young economic migrants. I would be surprised if we still have a lot of elderly people in a decade as they continue to move out of central London; and as the population gets wealthier our youth work will be very different. However, that said, there will still be social housing and a young professional population – but quite how you serve that I don’t know.
We know we’re going to have this churn. We can’t define the population because we’re living with change, so we need to be adaptable - and just do it.