Blog Archives

My Experiences of The Winch: A Place for Parents

As part of a series of firsthand accounts of the Winch and our work within the community one of our mums speaks about her experience of first coming to The Winch and the services on offer.

"My first contact with The Winch was one of the 'Connecting Parents' sessions that was nearly a year and a half ago.

At the time I was in emergency accommodation. The coordinator of Homestart got in contact with Page (at) The Winch who introduced me to a session at Belsize Community Library. We did a mood board about our expectations for the future. Meeting Page for the first time I was like wow, she’s got such a warm smile and a lovely attitude and I was instantly captured by her kindness. I was a little intimidated because I didn’t know anybody else but Page encouraged me to keep coming.

Page told me about a Wednesday session called ‘Being a Parent’ at The Winch done in partnership with the Anna Freud Centre. At the beginning I wasn’t sure whether to attend or not, I was a bit intimidated because my experience was really bad and I didn’t really trust anybody. I was really reluctant to join these kinds of activities because I didn’t want to start whining and make everything even more kind of sad but I completely changed my views around this. The group was really powerful because it let me share my own experience and I developed from someone taking from this group to wanting to give something back because I saw the effect that a conversation over coffee with supportive people can have for someone in a bad place and I wanted to give that to someone who needs that experience like I did.

Through the group we also realised we were all scattered around Swiss Cottage and now we had a way of coming together in a protected safe environment where we could share what was going on. It also meant outside of sessions we had a group of friends we could rely on in our local area.

Through ‘Being a Parent’ I also learnt a lot. In terms of parenting skills we shared a lot of knowledge, a lot of personal direct experience that I have to put in practice myself because that cause was very much practical rather than theoretical, so they taught as many skills, how to cope from the stress management, to the tantrums, to potty training.

Engaging with Page and The Winch has been great for my son because he’s still very little, he just turned three so whatever I feel he feels, he’s still very much a sponge but when I saw him playing with the other children, I finally saw that he’d started building his own identity, started feeling connected as well not just with mum but with other children, definitely I saw him more present to himself let’s say.

I hope that my son will continue to attend The Winch during Primary School and even though our being a parent group has finished we all continue to meet outside of The Winch and support one another. The Winch as a parent gave me the chance to meet with other parents when I was feeling isolated, which gave me a way of coping with the past."

Click on the link here to learn more about our groups and programmes for parents and how to get involved.

My Experiences of the Winch: Something Positive for Young People to Do

As part of a series of firsthand accounts of the Winch and our work within the community one of our young people speaks about his experience of first coming to The Winch and the work he now does supporting his local community.

"I first encountered the Winch when I was about, I’d say about 12, 11? I used to come to like, all the football sessions and stuff, when we had the old football pitch, all the tournaments and stuff. The Winch was always the best back in the day, cause we had that massive adventure park, the massive football pitch both of which are now a lot smaller unfortunately. There was the music studio as well where like 30 plus kids used to come, drop bars and which kids are still using today.

And then later down the line Paul (former CEO of The Winch) became our youth worker at St. Mary’s. When he moved to the Winch, me and a friend of mine moved to The Winch as well to see what it was all about. My friend started his gap year to become a Youth Worker and I joined The Company (a scheme teaching young people to become entrepreneurs). I enjoyed that a lot, and then started up my business which was like a football coaching thing, like a little soccer school, and then from there, got on to do the gap year scheme with St. Marys and been working with The Winch in the area ever since.

The Company was great in terms of the help and support because it was like four days a week and we had mentors as well as Winch Staff. I think The Winch helped me in terms of my public speaking before the gap scheme I’d never ever done public speaking I just hated it and then went on residentials, done practices, met with coaches and it started to build my confidence. I still coach or lead football sessions regularly and I have got my basic coaching qualifications.

Because when I was growing up I had youth workers and just him being in the community and being around. People got to know him and they start building trust with him and stuff like that. So from there you build relationship with everyone like different areas, even rival areas people are like “aw yeah that’s Jason” or “aw yeah that’s Emile”, “that’s Reece” and if you have a good reputation with the young people they start to trust you more and then they can talk to you, confide in you, and then tell you things they said they’d never tell like a different youth worker or a teacher.

For example I now work with The Winch in mentoring a group of local boys and we’ve built a relationship with them over a long time, so they feel they can trust us and like being around us, and then with the football stuff it gives them something to do which is crucial. I remember there was another group of young boys we used to chill with like when we was younger and they stopped coming to football and because of that they got involved in like gang activities and ended up in prison. So sometimes just being engaged and having something to do is enough and it shows the importance of what The Winch does."


You can find out more about The Company and the businesses our young people have set up here.

The Big Give Summer Challenge Starts Today!

We have teamed up with the Childhood Trust for the Big Give Summer Challenge 2018 to help fund our team of sessional play workers for our holiday playschemes. As the UK’s biggest match funding event the Big Give is an exciting opportunity for us to make the most out of the support we receive – donations during Big Give week will be doubled by the Childhood Trust - so can have twice the impact!

Our playschemes offer a variety of enriching and thoughtful activities to children and young people aged four to twelve in the local community. This year over 60 children will attend our summer playscheme where they will be able to explore, play, be creative and learn in a safe and nurturing space.

We have made our playschemes accessible and affordable to parents to ensure that those most in need are able to access our support and offer free places where needed. This means that every parent can be reassured that they have access to a safe and stimulating environment during the school holidays. Many of the children that come to our playschemes are from single parent working families, suffer from food insecurity or have no one around to care for them when school is closed.

Our playschemes offer a range of play and educational activities that support childrens wellbeing and development. For example children attending playschemes can join in on cooking sessions where they learn how to make healthy and nutritious recipes; art sessions where they learn expressive skills; physical activities and sports are also a large part of the day. On top of the activities we provide we offer trips, clubs,  healthy meals and snacks, advice and guidance to parents and practical support in order to give the best start that we can to the children and young people who come to us.

Important Questions

When: The Big Give Summer Challenge starts today: Monday 11th June 2018 and finishes this Friday 15th June.

Where: Please click on this link to be redirected to our Big Give Summer Challenge Giving page

Why: The Winch needs to raise £15,000 through the Big Give this summer to help fund our amazing playscheme staff

How: Match funding means that every donation that we receive before we hit our target will be matched by our partners the Childhood Trust: so when you donate £20, they donate £20 and we receive the £40 total!

Help children and young people in your local community this summer. Give through the Big Give and help us save our Summer by sponsoring a playworker! #sponsoroursummer


The Winch is pleased to announce that we will be working with Thornton's Budgens Community Supermarket in Belsize Park to raise money for our Belsize Community Library.

Our library provides an important service to the local community, where people of all ages and backgrounds can access the facilities, information and support. We hold events and clubs that bring together families and children from the local community. With your support this fantastic work can continue.

Shoppers at the store can opt to have 1% of the value of their shop to go to Belsize Communtiy Library and the fantastic work that they do! Please note that it is only at Thornton's Budgens Belsize Park that this scheme is valid.

Friends and supporters can pop into Thornton's Budgens, Belsize Community Library or The Winchester Project Swiss Cottage to pick up their own keyfob donation card.

Please support this fantastic opportunity to give back to your community while you shop!

On Saturday 12th May The Winch will be hosting a Five-a-Side Football Fundraiser, combining our love of the great game with our love of introducing new people to the work that we do for children and young people in Camden (and bringing out our competitive side to boot!). There is still space for a team or two so get in touch if you and some pals would like to join us. Teams must be between 5-7 people and players must be aged 16 or over. Have a look at the poster below for further details or get in touch with for any further questions or to sign up your team!

We are also looking for some volunteers for the event- if you're a budding photographer, keen communicator or a robust referee we would love to hear from you.


On March 19th, the North Camden Zone brought residents and professionals together for the England’s Lane Hack. They came up with brilliant ideas for changes to improve the residents’ lives. The Hack showed how important it is for people with lived experience to be part of ideas for change.

Read the full blog on the event on the North Camden Zone website 

We were joined by 75 different children for a very busy and fun rainforest themed Playscheme! Children went crazy for slime making, making lots of different varieties including sparkly glitter slime. We created lots of arts and crafts adventures, trying out some wax art on canvases and making binoculars, a giant snake and a monkey for our rainforest display. Children and staff embraced their inner chefs and their healthy eating theme, making new dishes such as fish cakes and fish pie and participating in a blindfolded rainforest taste test where they tastes different tropical fruits and guessed each one, with coconuts, avocados, mangoes, oranges, apples, grapes, bananas and much more. We discovered some little scientists and artists in other activities, including potion making and artistic (and very messy!) ‘eggsplosions’ where staff and children filled hollowed out egg shells with paint and created their own outdoor art piece. Trips outside of The Winch included a visit to 360 indoor play in Milton Keynes, Laser Quest Enfield, Gullivers theme park Milton Keynes and Three Acres Community Play Project.

During the Easter half term we put on lots of activities for local young people, who were ecstatic to learn new skills such as how to create tie dye t-shirts. Using cool new designs and colours, the young people each made their own tie dye creations and were thrilled to see how their t-shirts turned out.

In their time in the kitchen, the young people baked, decorated, and feasted on batches of chocolatey brownies and healthy banana bread. They expanded their baking skills by incorporating vegan friendly ingredients into one of the brownie recipes, which was a first for most, who had never tried a vegan brownie before! They were surprised at their delicious taste.

Our youth activities continued outside of The Winch building, with a residential trip and a football tournament. Fifteen young people from across all our secondary years programmes represented their groups at a 2 day trip to Brighton where they took the opportunity to help design how they and their peers would like to be involved in the work of The Winch. Their ideas ranged from small scale fundraising ideas to international volunteering exchanges. These will form the basis of a new session on a Monday evening where all secondary staff will be working up their ideas with them in order to take them forward. 

Eight young men aged 11-19 took part in a pan London football tournament at Coram's Fields, a positive activity mixing young men from all over the capital giving time to show their football talents as well as to socialise and have fun in between games. We are very proud to say that The Winch team reached the semi finals against some very tough competition!

Our parent groups had an amazing Easter break full of outdoor fun and also some lovely pampering. In the first week we took 30 parents and children to Hampstead Heath in partnership with the organisation Hampstead Hands. The group had lots of fun in the sunshine building a den, making kites and doing wool crafts. It was great getting parents, toddlers and teenagers outdoors together showing amazing teamworking skills lifting massive logs to build our den, with a three year old demonstrating excellent project management skills! To offset all the hard work, in the second week the group had a chance to put their feet up at a trip to the Lush store in Oxford Street. The parents and children got to make their own seaweed bath bombs, enjoy natural face masks and hand massages and test all the products. All the staff were lovely and welcoming and the parents and children enjoyed a lovely sparkly and very aromatic trip.

We are now in April, which is “Me Month” in partnership with Camden Blossoms. Several guest speakers will be talking about all sorts of hot topics, including relationships, sleep and well-being with mums of babies under one.

Right now our Toddler Group is all about Fitness and Healthy Eating. We have two different Family Kitchen sessions and one Zumba session occurring weekly for the next six weeks. 16 women are participating from countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Egypt,Italy, UK and Eritrea.

North Camden Zone is going to be delivering a free one day training course to the voluntary and community sector organisations and individuals working with children, young people or families, called Become a Change Maker (Level 1). The training will focus on systems thinking and how to achieve change in different systems. With this information, you will gain a better understanding on how to support grassroots action that work toward making North Camden a great place to grow up. 

Attending this Level 1 training will also mean that your organisation is eligible for Level 2 of the North Camden Zone Change Maker Learning Programme. This includes 5 days free consultancy paid for by Lankelly Chase Foundation, to support you to look at the scope for change in your own work and in the wider system.

The training will take place on the 2nd of May 2018, 9:30am to 4pm at St Pancras Community Association, 67 Plender Street, London NW1 0LG. Please book your place here. If you have any questions please contact