Case study

Building a connected community in Clerkenwell, London

The Peel has been active since the 19th century, focusing on activities for children and young people, and social events for the over 55s. 
Organisations: The Peel 
Project: Clerkenwell Youth Development Programme 
Grant amount and duration: £40,000 over 24 months 
Year awarded: 2022 
Location: London, UK 
Two young girls are in a classroom, with paints spread out in front of them. They are each painting a glass jar and concentrating on their work
Photo credit: Peel Institute

The Peel is a charity committed to building a connected community in Clerkenwell, London.

Our Neighbourhood Fund responds to the rising levels of hardship and disadvantage we can see on our doorstep. The Fund backs organisations that support people experiencing severe forms of disadvantage within one mile of Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s (PHF) offices in King’s Cross London.

Active since the 19th century, The Peel offers multiple community opportunities. There is a focus on activities for children and young people, and social events for the over 55s. The charity has a team of Community Organisers. They are all local residents whose role is to help other local people set up classes, activities and other initiatives which help bring people together and connect Clerkenwell.

The area has a high rate of child poverty compared to other parts of London. The reality of this really hit home” in the pandemic, says Olu Alake, The Peel’s current CEO. About 70% of the children and young people we were working with didn’t have their own laptop or couldn’t afford connectivity.” This meant that access to education and social contact was impaired.

A Covid relief grant from PHF gave The Peel resources to initiate relationships with local businesses, who provided laptops for young people. The Peel also helped those young people get connected and employed online tutors. This meant that they could continue education and meet friends online. And as many of their users were now connected, The Peel could move many of their activities online. These include the Code Club, for which five local businesses provide volunteers to teach young people coding and computer skills. 

During lockdown it was stressful being in the house all the time and The Peel was one of the things that helped motivate me … even if I had nothing to do on other days during the week I would always look forward to The Peel.

One young person on how being connected helped her in lockdown 

When lockdowns ended, a lot of these activities continued to engage people online. For example, some prefer to attend exercise classes remotely, with their cameras turned off, as they feel less self-conscious. With a second PHF grant from Our Neighbourhood Fund, The Peel is taking learning from the lockdowns to inform its new strategy. Olu talks of three interlocking rings”, with the charity’s activities:

  • led by the community
  • founded on strategic partnerships
  • using The Peel as a hub rather than a location for all activity.

A case in point is a new life-skills mentoring programme for young people. The Peel is piloting this with a first cohort of eight young people. It is supported by a concurrent programme for parents. These young people are not only completing the programme but being trained as mentors themselves. The programme will then be rolled out to many more children in a local school, supported by the eight peer mentors.

It’s not about us offering a menu of activities. It’s about us offering ourselves as a facilitator of ideas that the community itself is generating.

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