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INSPIRED Blog Series: Kinning Park Complex – not just a community space

Posted on 27 April 2023

Written by:

Jake Stephenson-Bartley

Kinning Park Complex: Not just a Community Space

Kinning Park Complex (KPC) is a community-owned and run building in the Southside of Glasgow that has supported and protected the community for over 100 years.

An Inspired Meal, Visiting a Close a Friend

Image Credit: Will Scott & New Practice

I have somewhere special I want to show you” my friend mentioned, while planning how we wanted to spend my day visiting Glasgow. “It’s a ‘pay what you can’, three course meal, volunteer-supported and led, delicious food, and community table dining. It’s served over a period of 3 hours, and is best enjoyed when you get there early so you can fully immerse yourself in the atmosphere and people”. I was immediately sold –  delicious food with a friend, and new faces to share a meal with.

We set off to arrive in the Southside of Glasgow for around 5pm. Emerging from the subway with the thrum of the motorway humming in the background. We were greeted with bright yellow gates which led us towards what I later discovered to be a century-old school building, red stone, boasting large Victorian windows, high ceilings and a sensitively designed interior that felt both welcoming and cared for.

We were the first to arrive, grabbing a hot tea to warm the bones before taking a seat at one of the tables with a view into the community kitchen. From there, we could watch  the careful choreography of volunteers working across the kitchen, preparing the food for the evening.

I couldn’t help but smile as the hall slowly began to fill. 10, 20, 40, 60, a hundred people, a crescendo of chatter, laughter and joy began to fill the space. I was struck by the diversity of those who attended, the multitude of shoes and walks of life that had arrived to share a meal with one another. It was as if each table in the hall became their very own community for the evening. Smiles spread from one face to the other as bellies were filled with the beautifully prepared meals KPC had concocted.

Image Credit: Jake Stephenson – sketch of table and shared meal at Kinning Park Complex

My friend went on to discuss the various activities they offer as well as the guidance and welfare support KPC champion for a range of services that people can gain access to in Glasgow, as well as the invitation for groups or individuals to host a range of classes for those in the community.

What struck me more than anything was the sense of comfort in the space, both in feeling and physicality. KPC provides a broad range  of support for those in and around Glasgow from multiple backgrounds of affluence, heritage and family size, but all served with a presence of openness and reciprocity. The atmosphere created, removed any possible associated stigma that could be faced when seeking support from any number of services.

I left with a warm heart and a full belly.

The Rich History of Kinning Park Complex

An old photograph of the exterior of the building, showing two people on a ladder placing a banner. Sourced from New Practice

Kinning Park Complex has a rich history of community activism, education and occupation that has always been a part of supporting and protecting the Glasgow community. In the early 1900s, KPC started off as an extension to Lambhill Street School before evolving into the Kinning Park Neighbourhood Centre in 1976. Offering a plethora of support, including childcare, recreational classes and mother and toddler groups, to name a few. For 20 years this was supported by the council until it became too expensive to run. Being a staple of support for the community and mothers, local campaigners declared that the building belonged to the taxpayer and blocked the entrance to avoid the building’s closure. Over 55 days, local campaigners and members of the community occupied the building 24 hours of the day. The council then handed the keys over to the community for a peppercorn rent of £1.

Over the past 20 years, KPC has been supported and led by the local community, not without its own hardships of trying to keep the building supported and open, with rising maintenance costs for the upkeep of the building. 

Following The Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act in 2015, the building received support to be maintained and restored to allow a safe and warm space for members of the community to continue to use. A few years later, after becoming a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation, KPC was awarded 1.2 million from the Scottish Land Fund and The National Lottery to purchase and renovate the building.

In March 2023, the Kinning Park Complex still boasts and supports its community through multiple initiatives that catalyse connection amongst the community and strengthen community spirit. Kinning Park Complex seems able to serve different parts of the community equally and with no stigma attached to those requiring more support than others. It is able to help bring people together rather than emphasise or amplify differences and divisions, which is needed more than ever in the current landscape of austerity, cost of living and the discrimination of marginalised communities. As a visitor for the first time it felt like receiving a supportive hug from a loved one. Kinning Park Complex is not just a community space. It’s so much more.

Image Credit: Will Scott & New Practice