Ann Mason's enthusiasm lights up the small office she occupies under the eaves of Whittington Park Community Centre: "The place has so much potential, this is an amazing building, in an amazing location". Occupying one corner of Whittington Park, the centre has a long tradition of providing facilities for the under 5s and for older people. "Now I want to develop our offering for other age groups, in particular our new nursery for two year olds and facilities for 14 - 19 year olds. And we're developing activities for older men, a group that often gets left out."
The building certainly has lots of potential: Ann shows us over the centre which has a number of spaces, including an airy hall complete with dance floor, a comfortable lounge and something of which she is particularly proud - the cafe. Since Ann took over as Centre Manager four years ago, the cafe has become a thriving community favourite, offering healthy food at very reasonable prices.
The Centre is part of the Octopus network which brings various community centres together for the purpose of making joint bids for funding and managing larger projects, which no one small centre could achieve. "The Stay Well Live Well project has enabled to us to obtain funds for two outreach workers - shared between several centres - introducing isolated people to new activities."
Ann's background is in corporate finance, including managing a small subsidiary of a French company, "but I have always been involved in community projects. Once I decided to leave the corporate world, I went to manage the Art In the Park project, based in Burgess Park [South London]"
And what does Ann do to relax? "Carnival! I have a long term involvement in the Notting Hill Carnival - I joined one of the samba schools many years ago, but the really eye-opening experience was visiting carnival in Trinidad. Everyone is involved - there are no inhibitions about age or size. When I returned I joined the soca band Perpetual Beauty - which was responsible for opening the Carnival Training School. I eventually ended up on their board." She is now a member of Sunshine Arts.
Ann excuses herself - she has a lot to do before she takes a short holiday at the WOMAD festival in Wiltshire. "Camping? Of course I'm camping! I suppose you could say I'm a hippy at heart..." but positively not an aging one.
Whittington Park Community Centre is organising its annual Big Day Out on 24 September. For further details - and details of all the many activities at the Centre - see http://whittingtonpca.org.uk