Pauline Brown

Advice & coffee bar, 1980s -2010s

When Centerprise was there you didn’t find, you didn’t find all these restaurant or, along there. No. A lot of them wasn’t there. Because Centerprise was covering the whole of that area. Coming from the market, where do we go? We’re shopping, Centerprise, sit down, we have a meal, we talk. Yeah, you just come home from shopping, yes. And, we didn’t have to know anybody, but we just, we talk with each other. Yeah. And I feel that it was a great place to be, and it was a wonderful place to be. I can only remember, I can only tell you what I see of it, what I can remember of it, that it was a, it was a very strong hold, them place. It was a place was holding up the community, was holding the community, and, people wasn’t walking around, like, wandering. Centerprise was there, they could go and sit there, they could go and sit there all day if they want, no one harassed them, attack them, ‘Get out.’ No. Even if they’re drinking, they could go and sit there. Because Centerprise was cleaning up the whole of Stoke Newington. It was a marvellous place to be. Refreshing, refreshing.

In this interview Pauline Brown gives a very passionate and personal account of her life and views on Centerprise.  Born in Jamaica in 1955, she moved to London when she was ten years old, at first living amongst the theatres of Drury Lane, Covent Garden. Pauline later lived and worked in Hackney, working first in various factories, including Burberry’s, and then as a cook in Hackney schools for 24 years.

Pauline used to walk past Centerprise on her way to shop in Ridley Road market. One day she went in for some advice and discovered the bookshop, reading centre and coffee bar. From then on she visited regularly and describes Centerprise as a place where she could be herself, where ‘nobody worry your head’. She gives a lively description of Ridley Road market and socialising on the ‘Frontline’ of Sandringham road, places she saw as contributing to the energy and vitality of Centerprise. She was shocked to learn Centerprise had closed and feels there are not enough spaces like it to bring people together and inspire them, although she appreciates contemporary centres like Open School East where she has been organising activities more recently.

Interviewed by Maggie Hewitt.

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Pauline Brown
© Sophie Polyviou