The Fitzherbert Community Hub brings together a number of partner organisations in Brighton who already operate from a dilapidated parish hall and associated spaces to form a new community hub that aims to inspire and empower its users. The hall is predominantly used by Voices in Exile, The Real Junk Food Project and Brighton Table Tennis Club. It is also used by various other community groups on a less frequent basis. Communities currently served by the centre include refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants with no recourse to public funds and often in dire financial need. There is also a growing number of people experiencing homelessness using the facilities, referred to through their relationship with St. Anne’s Day Centre and work supporting St Patrick’s Night Shelter.
The Fitzherbert Community Hub addresses social inequality head on – not just about the services provided, but the environment in which they are delivered. It was therefore important that the Hub was reorientated so that all users use the same entrance – no one uses the ‘back door’. It was important how individual services were accessed as well. For example, access to the food bank is via the main space but off to one side, where users have a choice of being part of the cafe or sitting quietly to one side – it is their choice. Accessing a food bank isn’t necessarily a choice, but how you interact with it can be.
A significant aspect of this project is to carve out of an existing collection of buildings a cohesive community hub that is accessible to all regardless of physical ability, learning needs, those that are unable to speak English or even read their own language. Central to this the creation of a building that is welcoming and joyful to those who need advice, food and comfort. It is crucial that the building is a joy to visit and not a back door to those to those in need.