The Sherriff Centre, which opened in 2014, has settled in well and is now one of the most popular features of the area – especially with parents. It was, and still is, a church, but after some extensive internal modernisation it now offers a host of community facilities: a post office and shop, a café with lots of comfortable seating and Hullabaloo (the kids soft play area, and the reason why it is so popular with parents – and perhaps less popular with people looking for a quiet coffee!).
As I waited to talk to Jane Edwards, the manager, it was particularly busy with long queues for the post office counter, the café was full and kids were enjoying the soft play. Plus lots of Christmas lights. All in all a great atmosphere.
What brought you to West Hampstead?
I first came to West Hampstead in the mid-90s and rented a flat with my then boyfriend (now husband). We loved the flat and area so much that we begged the landlady to stay and offered to decorate the flat and look after the garden to keep the rent affordable! Eventually, we moved to West London but we always said if we could ever afford it we would move back to the area.
And we did move back, about 12 years ago; first to Sumatra Road, and then up to Gondar Gardens, where we are now. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
What is your first memory of the area?
I loved the feel of West End Lane. Especially the area round West End Green and the fire station, which my parents call ‘Trumpton’! Even though you are in London it doesn’t feel like you are in London.
What has surprised you most about how West Hampstead has changed?
It has fewer independent shops, although that is perhaps inevitable. I loved the record shop and Dizar the gift shop. And instead of Atlanta we now have all the supermarkets and soon an M&S food shop. But nothing has surprised me, everything changes.
One of the things we try to do at the Sherriff Centre is strike the right balance between keeping it community-oriented and being commercial; we are a social enterprise/business. We innovate with things like the quiz and would like to try supper clubs as well as other ideas for events, especially as the building really comes into its own at night.
People still come in and pray and light a candle outside of ‘church’ hours and others notice when the colour of the cloth on the altar changes and ask why. So we still have the link to it being a church. Yes it has changed but it is still an inspiring place, quite calming with a history.
What’s for lunch?
Something from the café, most probably their daily dish (lasagne is a particular favorite), unless they have sold out that is.
And I do go out too! As I live locally I go out to local places at the weekend. So for a weekend lunch? I miss La Brocca, we always used to go there for weekend brunch. Currently, I like the Black Lion and also the Alliance for their Sunday roasts but I like to try new places too.
Describe West Hampstead in three words?
Unique, vibrant and community