There were very few council nurseries then, you had to have absolutely high priority, you had to be sort of, bashing your kids up sort of thing to get any place. And part of what, of course, the Hackney Under Fives were saying, there should be more nurseries, they could be community run, community managed and so forth. There was a group at the Hackney College, in Defoe Road, it was a, local women and so forth, that had got money, had succeeded in getting… It was EEC money it was called then, under a poverty programme. I think there were seven UK projects that got money, and one was this proposal for a nursery in the grounds of the college where young women who had left school early because they’d had children but wanted to go back and continue their education, they got this money, and, it, that was set up, in the grounds of the college, Portakabin buildings. Now, I had been involved in the committee of this, but, they advertised the job, and, they didn’t get anybody. And at that point I was just about to go off to Goldsmiths’ to a course that I had been offered, got a place on, that I was very pleased about. But, xxx said, ‘Well why don’t apply for this? This is perfect. You’ve got the local knowledge, you’ve been, you know, you’ve set up the Sandbrook playgroup and so forth.’ And it was something that I did feel strongly about, that it was good community nurseries, this is what we really needed for women. Not, playgroups, couldn’t provide that. And so I did, I applied and I got appointed. And that was a most wonderful five years I had there, because, it was a great bunch of people that came to work there. And, we were well-funded. We had an outreach worker that would work in the local community. We had a teacher appointed. So we were, we were combining care and education.
Larraine Worpole was born in 1942 in Southend-on-Sea. As a young adult she trained as a youth worker, inspired by an adventure playground she was involved with in Brighton.
In 1969 she moved to Hackney with her husband, Ken Worpole, and after having her first child that year, realized there was nothing for children in the area ‘and I didn’t know a soul’. She was initially involved in setting up Sandbrook Community Playgroup and campaigning for more and improved services and nurseries with the Hackney Under-Fives Committee. Larraine became the first manager of the Defoe Community Day Nursery in 1976, one of seven UK projects funded by an EEC Anti-Poverty Programme, set in the grounds of Hackney Community College, offering young women with babies and toddlers a chance to continue their education.
By 1974, when Centerprise moved to its high street premises, the Hackney Under-Fives had an office based in the building. It wasn’t ‘ideal premises’ for people with small children to visit as it was up a flight of stairs, but their work was enhanced by close proximity to the range of services Centerprise provided, especially the advice centre. Larraine had always been involved voluntarily, but in 1981 became a paid outreach worker for Hackney Under-Fives. Her work involved supporting parent and toddler groups, running outings and play events but most importantly campaigning and advocating on behalf of homeless families in hostel and bed and breakfast accommodation.
Larraine first got involved with Centerprise before the project even got off the ground, and at times sat on the board of the co-operative. She speaks warmly about visiting Centerprise for meetings and remembers volunteering in the Reading Centre: ‘it felt like one huge family sometimes’. It was, she says, ‘an exceptional place’.
Interviewed by Ruth Geall.