As the Churchfield Community Association approaches its 10th birthday, former chair Mike Morris remembers the beginning …
When Susan Hauser returned to Acton from a sabbatical in April 2000, she found the place in a bad way. There was rubbish everywhere in the streets and graffiti on every surface. Other neighbours in Goldsmith Road – Phil Tucker and Fiona Dennis – and Gill Adams round the corner in Churchfield Road were also losing patience with the state of the area.
The last straw came when the graffitists decided to scratch shop windows all down the street. Together the neighbours decided to call a meeting.
The first meeting
They booked the upstairs room at Platform One (now The Station House). They leafleted Churchfield Road and surrounding streets and ‘drummed up’ all the local officials, the police, Action Acton, Willy Doherty, people from Ealing Council, including Roni White, Ealing’s graffiti officer.
Susan recalls: ‘There was an amazing turnout. The upstairs room at Platform One was packed out – standing room only. People were standing at the doorway trying to get in. There were shopkeepers and residents. Everyone was up in arms about the state of the area.’
Susan chaired the meeting, sitting at the top table with the police and other officials. At that time, the room was being used as a music venue, so the lovely arched Victorian windows were all blacked out. ‘There was a good atmosphere,’ says Susan, ‘people were enthusiastic and there were lots of questions.’
However, the police were realistic. They said that it was extremely hard to catch a graffitist, even harder to obtain evidence, and in the unlikely event that they secured a conviction, magistrates were most reluctant to hand out deterrent sentences. Their advice? ‘Keep painting it out and they will give up – eventually.’
Someone floated the idea of starting an association and Susan asked for volunteers. The nucleus of a committee began to form. Picot Cassidy came on board and Chrissie Kravchenko who had been involved with an earlier group called the Churchfield Residents’ Association. Roni White was very supportive and offered to organise a graffiti ‘clean-up’ day.
The first committee meeting
I was one of those standing in the doorway of the public meeting at Platform One. I took no part and didn’t ask a question. I didn’t see myself as an activist. This was about to change. I’d lived in Acton for two years, but I worked full time, did not have school-aged children and knew no one locally – except Gill Adams, who I’d been introduced to by a mutual friend. One day in early September I was waiting at the level crossing when Gill accosted me. ‘There’s a meeting tonight,’ she said. ‘We’re going to start an association. You must come.’ I didn’t really want to get involved, but I agreed to come along.
The meeting – on Wednesday, 6 September 2000 – was in Gill Adams’ basement room. This was located below the Feng Shui shop in Churchfield Road run by Georgina Burns and Phil Tucker, which used to be where the baker Laveli now is. I still have the minutes that were done by Fiona Dennis. Here’s a list of those present, the glorious founders:
- Gill Adams (Churchfield Road)
- Fiona Dennis (Goldsmith Road)
- Susan Hauser (Goldsmith Road)
- Chrissie Kravchenko (Churchfield Road)
- Mike Morris (Goldsmith Road)
- Paul Stokes (Milton Road)
- Matthew Stower (Churchfield Road)
- Phil Tucker (Goldsmith Road).
We decided that the new association should be called the Churchfield Residents and Traders Association (CRTA).
Aims were agreed:
- To tackle the problem of graffiti and fly-tipping in the area
- To sustain and attract individualistic commercial organisations which reflect the diverse nature of the population
- To raise the standard of overall cleanliness in the area
- To develop links with local schools and businesses
- To encourage sustainable social and economic development.
We elected officers to serve until an inaugural general meeting could be held that would put the association on a formal footing. Susan Hauser became chair; Matthew Stower, an accountant with the firm of Clarke & Co, became treasurer; and I found myself agreeing to be secretary – just until the AGM.
After the 6 September meeting, events moved quickly. On advice from the Ealing Voluntary Services Council, we changed the proposed name to ‘Churchfield Community Association’. ‘You’ll never get any funding with “Traders” in your name,’ they told us. ‘Everyone will think it’s a commercial trade association.’
Susan began chasing Ealing Council about rubbish and succeeded in getting collections in Churchfield Road increased from twice a week to daily. Then Ealing Council introduced daily street cleaning. People began actively reporting dumped cars – a big problem in the days before residents’ parking was introduced. A graffiti clean-up day was set for Wednesday, 1 November, the day before the inaugural general meeting.
Assembling outside Platform One for the first graffiti clean-up day in 2000
If any date could be said to mark the birth of the CCA, it is 1 November 2000. Roni White and her contractors arrived early at the rendezvous point outside Platform One. Mo Cory, the Clean Charm Ltd supervisor, gave us a quick health & safety lecture and we were off. Using solvents supplied by Clean Charm, we scrubbed away at the easier bits, while the professionals attacked the more intractable sites with their high-pressure hoses.
The atmosphere was fantastic. I was suffering from back trouble at the time and didn’t do much myself. Instead I went from shop to shop signing up the businesses as members. I wrote in my ‘thank you’ letter to Mo: ‘The clean-up of our street has really boosted morale here and was the best possible launch for our newly formed association.’
The CCA’s first official meeting
We were on a high as we assembled in the upstairs room of Platform One the following evening for the inaugural meeting. Gill Adams took the chair. All the ‘temporary’ officers were elected to permanent posts and the aims were adopted. Susan stayed as a most effective chair for four years, I was secretary for six years and Matthew is still the treasurer.
Under Susan’s leadership, the association began to take shape. Subscriptions were set at £5 for a single member and £2 for concessions. Astonishingly, the subscription remains unchanged at the time of writing (March 2010). The executive committee immediately embarked on a series of major projects. We got funding from Action Acton to buy paint and brushes and instituted a monthly graffiti paint-out. With Groundwork West London, we cleaned up Acton Central station and the footpath leading to the footbridge over the railway from Goldsmith Avenue. We got involved in the European Car Free movement, and got Churchfield Road closed to traffic on Car Free Day in both 2001 and 2002.
Experts will tell you that it’s not easy to turn a single-issue campaign into a sustainable community group. The fact that the CCA has achieved this and reached its 10th birthday is due in no small part to the efforts of the pioneers whom I joined because of a chance meeting at the level crossing during the summer of 2000.