Big Society at the Arches?

Okay, starting oblique here, but stay with me.

Barbara loves Blackheath Halls and loves being part of the group dedicated to keeping it going despite sundry cuts. And they’re doing incredible things. She tells me that recently the Halls persuaded Farrow & Ball to donate paint for the building in return for advertising and she asks:

“Why not the Arches? Every woman I know agrees the Arches needs an uplift in terms of inspiring decor.”

Barbara wants to start a campaign to decorate the Arches and knowing the council are stretched financially, to find other ways to do fund it. She is wondering whether people would want to get involved. She says “obviously we first need to get the council to agree to such a campaign and then form an action committee,” but asks “is there support out there, could you find out? I mentioned the idea at the Curious Comb and everyone nodded in favour.”

I doubt you’ll find many people who wouldn’t nod, Barbara – you’re not wrong that the Arches is in a terrible state. The ghostly apparition of  mythical new facilities at the still-barren Heart of East Greenwich have put paid to anything but the most basic remedial work being done on the Arches, however long we may find ourselves waiting and yes, the place is falling apart around sporty-people’s ears.

Of course there’s a big difference between Blackheath Halls and the Arches. At the risk of looking a terrible stereotypist, I have to point out that Blackheath Halls is a highbrow cultural centre in a well-heeled area largely patronised by Farrow & Ball’s target market. There’s an easy place to trumpet the company’s support, in the programmes to the various events. The Arches is a local council-run sports facility in East Greenwich I suspect Farrow & Ball would have difficulty in placing on the map whose programme of weekly classes is a photocopied sheet of A4.

If the will is there, then there’s no reason in theory why it shouldn’t work, though – and let’s face it, all that painting would provide some excellent upper-arm workouts. It’s just a matter of working out who would benefit from being seen to help the Arches when trying to get commercial support. Target the sort of companies that appeal to people who like exercise and activity – outdoor companies, DIY, professional suppliers –  B&Q, Wickes, Brewers, Selco etc., for whom word-of-mouth is more important than glossy ads and it’s possible they’ll be interested.

So – is anyone interested in joining Barbara to give the Arches a spring-clean? It’s possible they’ll be with us for some time yet…

9 Comments to “Big Society at the Arches?”

  1. Franklin says:

    I’d be happy to pitch in! Let me know contact details and I’ll get in touch directly. I can also alert friends and neighbours who would be willing to help if the project goes ahead.

    I have to point out one misunderstanding here: the Arches is not “local council-run”, it’s run by Greenwich Leisure Lmited (GLL,, which bills itself as “Leisure’s Most Successful Social Enterprise”.

    GLL would therefore presumably be the organisation to contact re a volunteer-supported spring clean. I don’t know whether GLL’s operating contract will make it easier or more difficult to organise a locally run ‘tidy up’.

  2. annabel says:

    I’d love to get involved absolutely, it really looks so depressing and it has such a great location it could be wonderful.

  3. Emma says:

    Count me in. I frequent the arches a lot and think this is a wonderful idea.

  4. Matt says:

    Nice idea. Count me in! I will class it as exercise to avoid actually having to use the Arches.

  5. Mario says:

    Happy to help. No artistic skills and a bit hapless at DIT but happy to carry stuff and generally help out!

  6. If you guys want to email me, I’ll pass you all onto Barbara.

  7. Mary says:

    Yes – Phantom – tell her to get in touch. I might be able to help with contacts and stuff – but stress to her that it is GLL, not the Council, who she needs to be involved with.

  8. Barbara says:

    I like the energy of these responses…please do ask the Fabulous Phantom to forward your email addresses . I have written to GLL today to sound them out in a tentative would be very useful to have contact information for the best people to approach at GLL if anyone has it. Watch this space for more information


  9. Barbara says:

    Here is my e-mail exchange with GLL concerning decor at The Arches.
    Having raised this I will be watching out to see if anything happens in the next year, if anyone wants to take this further…over to you……………..

    Start from the end:-
    Dear Christine
    It is good to hear that there are plans to uplift the decor as part of rebranding, we will look forward to this with much enthusiasm. I will post my e-mails and your response on the blog for Greenwich Phantom readers to see. I would like to pass on that residents wrote they found the decor depressing, that it did not lift the spirits, someone wrote to me to say that nearly forty pounds a month was a lot of money and that this should include enough to redecorate etc etc.

    Thank you

    Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for your email and the Big Society initiatives you do in the community. I have spoken to the Greenwich Partnership Manager about your request, he wanted me to pass on that the Borough has planned maintenance throughout the year for all centres , which includes Arches Leisure Centre, and hopefully this will address some of your concerns below.

    On top of this, GLL is looking to refresh the brand across all centres we operate, so this will include an update on decor.

    I hope this helps. Any further questions please let me know.

    Kind regards, 
    Christine Johnston 
Marketing Communications
    Tel: 020 8317 5000 extn 4036 
Mobile: 07772 223 271 
Fax: 020 8317 5021 

    From: Barbara
    Sent: 11 January 2012 20:24
    To: Christine Johnston
    Subject: Big Society initiatives in the Olympic year

    Dear Christine,
    You may be aware of a local blog called the Greenwich Phantom; I floated an idea on this blog yesterday related to The Arches, our local sports centre that relates to uplifting the decor. I am involved with Blackheath Halls, a local music venue, who like many multi-funded agencies are cash strapped, they persuaded a paint supplier to offer free paint in return for free advertising in their publicity and are currently renewing their decor to great effect. Knowing that The Arches are much used and much loved but like many feeling that a spiritual high could be gained by improving the decor, I floated the hypothetical idea on the local blog of a social enterprise project similar to Blackheath Halls using local suppliers eg B and Q etc, the response was overwhelming, people would like offer their time and energy at no cost to work with GLL to paint the Arches and obtain free paint etc through a co-coordinated project. I myself am a lecturer in business and management at a London university and am working for 6 weeks on Olympic Broadcasting this year.

    We wondered if a small group of us could meet with GLL to discuss putting together a community partnership to consider making this happen in the olympic year. Could you tell us whom to approach at an appropriately high level to test out if this Big Society community driven initiative might have wings? We know that plans are currently on hold in relation to the relocation of The Arches and this could be a way to uplift a much loved local facility. I would be grateful for the appropriate names to contact. Best Barbara