My main role was all the kind of, outward-facing community development activities. So, set up an advice centre there. And we used to be open one night a week, but loads of people through the place. We tried to encourage as much community activity as possible, the use of the room, you know, whether it is the, the co-op on Haggerston Estate, the Playbus which developed through Centerprise, playgroups; summer schemes, we did lots of summer schemes for young people, so kids would go off camping for the summer. All of those sort of, community development, community ideas, and, lots of things, an enormous amount started from Centerprise and moved outwards. And importantly, a lot of publications, and I’m not going to talk about the publications of Ken Worpole and all of that, the books side, which was much more Glenn’s, but my side, things like Hackney Action, which was a community newspaper, which eventually became Hackney People’s Press, they were a real engagement. And through us being involved in those press things we had a lot of other organisations that would come and want us to have their papers there, radical black groups, radical political groups, all sorts. Time Out when it was just starting at that point, wanting an outlet to sell Time Out. All sorts of people would be using the place in that way. So, it was a real hub and a catalyst for so much that sort of developed, and which was a time when there were, you know, there was a lot of potential but, relatively little going on actually in terms of sort of, community development.
In late 1969 Anthony Kendall met Glenn Thompson who ‘had this dream of a bookshop and a coffee bar’. He says ‘I wasn’t really 100 percent convinced that the sort of things that he was talking about could be achieved. But, he could sort of convince you they could be.’ Inspired, Anthony became one of a small group of committed people who worked to make the idea of Centerprise a reality within two short years.
Born in colonial Egypt in 1944, his early years were a fascinating initiation to politics. After his family were thrown out of Egypt during the Suez crisis in 1956 Anthony went to school in England, and later worked in various jobs, including as a fur broker, before becoming interested in social work. In his mid-twenties, he went to the LSE to study on the groundbreaking Diploma in Social Administration, arriving in 1968 when ‘the whole place exploded’ with political activity.
In Centerprise’s first premises, a rented shop on Matthias Road, Anthony remembers the group’s time being spent discussing ideas and putting in funding applications. Without a ‘daily grind’ there was time to get to know each other and ‘talk and think’. Once Centerprise opened on Dalston Lane, in May 1971, Anthony became the ‘outward-facing’ community worker. He got involved in a vast array of community projects that were either based in or assisted by Centerprise: an advice project that started with a rights stall on Ridley Road and later moved inside Centeprise itself, a community project on Haggerston estate that sparked a food co-op, playgroup and rent strike, the newspapers Hackney Action and Hackney People’s Press. The first group of workers put in long hours that left little time for their personal lives. Anthony and Glenn had planned to move on within three or four years, hoping to create space for local people to take over and run the project. Anthony left in 1974 as Centerprise moved into its new, larger premises at 136 Kingsland High Street. His time at Centerprise had rooted him to the local community and he stayed in Hackney for many years, becoming a Labour Councillor in 1978 and leader of the Council in 1982.
Interviewed by Lynda Finn.