Our Story begins back in 1975 : The Crossroads Women’s Centre began as a squat in Drummond Street near Euston station in 1975, opened by the Wages for Housework Campaign. As far as we know, it’s the oldest women’s centre remaining in London and possibly in the UK. The charity, Women in Dialogue (WinD), was created in 1976 to run the Centre. In 1978 the area was redeveloped and we were evicted. But we had wide local support: from other squatters including Bengali families we had worked with to get housing and protection from racist attacks, from community groups, and from local business people.
A determined contingent of women of different races, ages and backgrounds walked into Camden Town Hall to claim a new space. One of us chained herself to the first floor balcony and dramatically unfolded yards and yards of a petition with thousands of signatures demanding a women’s centre. After a year in limbo, Ken Livingstone, then Camden’s Chair of Housing, agreed to give us a small rundown empty shop at a token rent. It became the King’s Cross Women’s Centre, and was home for 17 years. In 1995 this area too was redeveloped. We couldn’t pay the expected commercial rent, and despite local protest we were evicted.
But unlike centres which closed down when funding stopped, we were saved by the dedication and commitment of volunteers and supporters who had always had to manage on a shoestring. We spent over a year at a youth centre and a church hall which kindly gave us space in their premises. We finally moved into our present Centre in 1996, thanks to a sympathetic landlord. The Centre’s expanding activities led to serious overcrowding. So buying a bigger centre became a long-term goal. In 2009, thanks to the generosity and commitment of volunteers, core users and supporters, we were able to buy 25 Wolsey Mews, an old building across the mews.
While in recent decades people have been encouraged to accumulate personal wealth, a number of volunteers preferred to donate or lend from their modest inheritance or savings towards buying the Centre. The dedicated work they contribute is their priority. We kept the name Crossroads. We chose it when we moved from King’s Cross to Kentish Town, to remind us of our old home, and to remember the brave women of the squatter town of Crossroads, South Africa, who refused to be moved, keeping alive the struggle against apartheid.
With all the cuts, times are hard and getting harder. We are gratified that we have a bigger community resource to offer to all who need it. We need each others’ support, creativity and determination more than ever.