In May 2022, Creative Lives caught up with Jessica Haener, Community Development Officer at Telegraph Hill Centre, an independent community centre in Lewisham, South East London. This October, the Centre will celebrate its 50th anniversary - find out how it’s still going strong after five decades! 

The Building

The Telegraph Centre is perched on leafy Telegraph Hill in the New Cross area of Lewisham. Adjacent to St Catherine’s Church, the building has beautiful interior features with a modern extension and views across London. In its foyer, the Centre has a community library, where people can bring or borrow books, or spend time sitting and reading in the cosy space. This welcoming entrance encourages people to walk in and discuss an idea for an event or workshop, or stop by to say hello and see what activities are on offer. 

How is it funded? 

Adaptability has been key to the Centre not just surviving but thriving for 50 years. Telegraph Hill Centre is a not-for-profit community centre, self-sustaining through regular rentals and one-off fees from space hire. The Centre receives core funding from St. Catherine’s Church Hatcham to whom it reports and works together with on joint projects such as Branching Out, a creative group for over 55s. The Centre relies on project grants for its ongoing community projects. 

Community Programming

Regular activity includes a mix of free as well as paid for programming - with audiences ranging from baby and prenatal classes, to toddler activities and workshops for teenagers, adults and older people. There is provision across a whole range of community activities, including yoga, martial arts, dance, pilates, private therapy, maths, language, drama and dance classes. 

Picture of people making dance moves while seated

Dance workshop with Traceworks dance

Monthly clubs run by members include knitting and crochet and a book club. Referral programming partners include a MIND weekly art class, Alcoholics Anonymous and Gamblers Anonymous. Alongside regular activity, the Centre also hosts one-off events, festivals and workshops. Public programming partners include Crisis Book Sale, Deptford Cinema, Telegraph Hill Festival, Telegraph Hill Community Production and Telegraph Hill Pantomime. 

People come with ideas for activities, so the culture is really grassroots between people.

- Jessica Haener

Every time I come to Telegraph Hill Centre I discover something new!

- Visitor 

Telegraph Hill Programming Spotlight

Alongside community-led activities, Telegraph Hill Centre coordinates a special programme of subsidised and free activities. 

Mend it with Mo

Mo, who is the Facility Manager at Telegraph Hill Centre, has initiated a popular ‘mending cafe’ since 2018 that takes place on the first Monday of each month, where people can bring in their broken items and take part in a mending session. 


Pictures from Mo's mending station

Creative Lives visited a Mend it with Mo workshop to find out what it was all about. 

This week, visitors brought in a coffee machine, a hairdryer, a propelling pencil, broken angel ornament and some earrings. Often Mo has over 10 people waiting for lunchtime mending help! We talked about memories that objects hold and the value that repair has in respecting those objects. 

“Mo fixed a hairdryer I brought in that I had for 20 years. It wasn’t very valuable but it was such a shame to get rid of it!” - Mend it with Mo visitor

“I brought in a little stained glass angel my granny gave me one Christmas. It doesn’t mean much to anyone else. It was in my window and one day the wing came off. I’ve had it for almost a decade, broken. I saw ‘Mend it with Mo’ on the Telegraph Hill website and this is the exact result I wanted. I can hang the angel in my window again and think of my granny. It’s these little things that mean a lot.” - Mend it with Mo visitor 

As Mo says:

I just like to see people smile when I do something good for them. I give people the confidence to know how to fix it. Sometimes not everything I can fix - but they just need the parts. Then they can come back and fix it here.

Mo shows visitors how to fix their objects for free, so they gain confidence to mend their own objects in future - and puts a smile on their face in the process. 

Branching Out

Jessica coordinates Branching Out, a creative group for over 55s who meet weekly at Telegraph Hill Centre. Two local artists are volunteering with the group to bring an experimental energy to the creative activities. Branching Out recently put on an exhibition alongside the two artist volunteers which was held at St Catherine’s Church as part of the Telegraph Hill Festival

I enjoy [Branching Out] because it's a very friendly and sociable atmosphere. I enjoy the company of others and find art very therapeutic… it's a very enjoyable class.

- Branching Out participant


Pictures from a visual arts exhibition at the Telegraph Hill Centre, showing the works of Abike, Peter and Shanty (left to right)

IT Support

Throughout the pandemic, Telegraph Hill Centre was one of the referral partners for ‘Community Callin’, a project initiated by Hubbub, which aims to tackle digital poverty. The Centre distributed refurbished smartphones with monthly data allowance to the local community, co-ordinating the deliveries as well as helping users set up their devices. Earlier this year, emerging from the pandemic, Telegraph Hill Centre started a digital cafe, offering free IT training and support. This has continued with a regular weekly slot - free and open to everyone.

One visitor who came to the recent IT support session was able to use a large-screen refurbished laptop provided by Catbytes, an organisation that support digital access in Lewisham. Like others, she was grateful for the help provided at the Centre - saying ‘Bless Jessica!’ for all her support. 

How is Telegraph Hill Centre managed? 

Telegraph Hill Centre has a team of five part-time staff, and eight dedicated volunteers. Jessica leads on Community Outreach, while Mo is responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the building. Abeba Woldeamanuel is the resident bookkeeper. The Centre Administrator, Ellana Gilbert, is the primary contact for all regular hirers. She ensures the Centre has a diverse and inclusive timetable by working closely with Angelo Barros, the Centre Manager, who oversees all aspects of Telegraph Hill Centre, while making it financially sustainable. 

Working closely with the team at St Catherine’s Church ensures a supportive relationship, and a diverse range of spaces to make use of during busy periods such as during the Telegraph Hill Festival, which the Centre has supported since it started in 1993. 

Get involved 

Got an idea for a creative group or community activity you want to run? There are still regular programming slots as well as one-off event slots available. Get in touch to find out how you could get involved. 

The monthly calendar is updated here. The programming is open to anyone who wants to join in, and the Centre encourages people to try out new ideas.

Event during the Telegraph Hill Festival 2022

Hire a Space 

You can hire a space for your event, and support this fantastic centre in the process. There are a wide range of rooms to choose from - many with beautiful church features and city views. Four rooms in the Centre are wheelchair accessible with accessible toilet.

What’s Next?

The Telegraph Hill Centre will soon announce its 50th anniversary programming, when they will dip into the archive to reflect and shape ideas for the Centre in the years to come. This includes an immersive theatre experience in October 2022, as part of Lewisham's London Borough of Culture official programming, in which the Centre will become an interactive time capsule, allowing the audience to become part of past events throughout its rich 50-year history. Follow their website for more information and for how to get involved. 

Thank you to Telegraph Hill Centre and its visitors for contributing to this case study.