In the 1970s, a trickle of young idealists was arriving in Hackney, seeking to put into practice new ideas about popular revolution through education. Margaret Gosley, co-founder of Centerprise, wrote, ‘There was Che Guevara and Castro of course, and everyone seemed to be wearing a black beret with a silver star…’ They proposed that learning should be organised through informal, peer-to-peer networks rather than institutions. Centerprise provided the perfect venue for radical teachers and and ‘unclubbable’ youth, who took part in school strikes, published subversive magazines and played chess.
In 1975, a Reading Centre for adults opened on the top floor of the building. The teachers were often disciples of Paulo Freire, who thought literacy classes should build on students' own life experiences and interests. Learners pinned their writing on the wall above the fireplace so everyone could choose their favourites. These became published books aimed at other adults learning to read, who until that point, often had to make do with children's books.
Right up to the closure in 2012, Centerprise was a place to ‘reason and break bread,’ as Toyin Agbetu puts it. Education was seasoned by jokes and delicious roti or red snapper.