Situated in the East End of London in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Bromley-by-Bow has witnessed considerable change and development in the wake of the London 2012 Olympics. The rapid regeneration witnessed by residents has still not been able to tackle some of the fixed social challenges in Tower Hamlets, including the highest levels of child poverty, unemployment, overcrowding, social isolation and low life expectancy.

Founded by local people from the community the Bromley by Bow Centre (BBBC) dates back to 1984 when its aims were as ambitious as they are today – to transform the local area for the benefit of the local community. The organisation is governed by a board of trustees and through its membership scheme, both of which include local residents. The Centre maintains its relevance to local need by using a range of participatory appraisal tools with which to listen with, providing conversations based on local concerns, opportunities and demands that are recognised and responded to.

Over the years, the centre has grown its facilities, including a social enterprise café, encompassing a range of available support across the themes of communities, health and wellbeing, and employment, skills and enterprise. Activities focus on welfare benefits, housing, debt and legal advice, training opportunities and careers advice, art and horticulture, healthy lifestyles and more, tackling social isolation while increasing personal wellbeing.

The delivery of an enhanced wellbeing offer by integrating the community centre and health partnership is the Bromley by Bow Centres main strategic goal. This will provide the model that addresses both the medical and social needs of a person at the same time, contributing to the creation of a stronger community where people care for each other more, while celebrating difference. This is where Power to Change was able to offer support. A £295,944 grant from our Community Business Fund helped with the re-design of the building to bring the primary care team and community centre together under one unified offering – acknowledging that poor health outcomes and social inequality are connected, without supporting the whole person, lives cannot be transformed and a vibrant community will not exist.

A newly provided café now overlooks Bob’s Park – affectionately named after the local park keeper who maintained it during the 50’s and 60’s, providing the focal point for the centre. With an expanded courtyard that better makes use of its beautiful setting that is maintained by the local gardening group. With the handmade tiles of local children, created twenty years ago, repositioned to bring together the enhanced green and peaceful spaces to connect the community and healthcare buildings, while increasing the social spaces for visitors and staff.

Catering in the café is provided by the Camden Society’s, Unity Kitchen – a social enterprise offering opportunities to people with learning disabilities to learn skills and gain employment.

The new design has been carefully thought out. Consultation with residents and staff took place at a number of events and workshops to understand what was important, while keeping the heritage and identity of the spaces that are juxtaposed with the surrounding inner city life of crowded flats, lots of people, busy motorways and noise. The opening up of the spaces and large windows bring the outdoors in, helping to provide a calming, open space that welcomes everyone. With many visitors to the centre arriving in a state of distress or perhaps trauma, the clever design layout helps to soothe mental stress. Art work and sculptures by local artists and residents adds beauty across all areas adding to the warm welcome that encourages you to stay and when you want to, to connect with others, or get bespoke support.

Along with its wide range of services which can be found on their website, the Bromley by Bow Centre also works with Poplar HARCA Poplar Housing and Regeneration Community Association to provide and support opportunities in the neighbourhood.