|Louise House - Forest Hill|
Some years ago I tried to get Lewisham Council to help me turn this wonderful old building, flanked on either side by the red brick swimming pool and library, into an Arts Centre for Forest Hill. It had once been an Industrial Girls Home where young women turned out by their parents or found wandering the streets were housed. They were sent to school nearby and in the house they were taught to wash clothes and learn how to be maids.
The upstairs dormitory bedrooms still showed how the girls were watched like prisoners: a woman who they would call "mother" slept in a tiny bedroom beside their dormitory room and there was a window through which "mother" could watch what they were up to.
I read some of the letters that accompanied the girls when they were deposited at the home and they were heartbreaking.
The Arts Council told me that they wouldn't be able to fund the project unless Lewisham Council put funds into it as well. All I managed to get from Lewisham was the promise of a peppercorn rent, but the rest I would have to manage. I couldn't fund the project myself and was busy with my new musical and soon realised that I would have to step back or the project would take over my life.
I have just been invited to the launch of the Louise House Arts Centre!! It is on Sunday 6th July between 11am and 1pm.
It is going to house artists studios and the basement is later going to be turned into a cinema!