The Learning Store is Real Action’s home and centre of operations. We are strategically placed on Mozart Street, at the heart of the extremely deprived section of north Westminster which the charity was originally created to serve.
Building literacy, building community
The Learning Store functions as: a space for learning, with adult literacy and English language classes taking place on site; as a venue for assessing the reading ages of children joining the Butterfly reading programme; as a micro lending library, primarily stocking children’s books; as the place where we welcome volunteers, and give them induction and training; and, as Real Action’s administrative centre.
Less tangibly, but vitally, The Learning Store also acts as a hub in the local area, a space in which new relationships are formed and in which the business of building community can really take place. Our clientele sometimes tell us ‘You are like our family!’ suggesting that our presence at the Learning Store is indeed a force for integration and social cohesion.
The Learning Store was purpose-designed for us by architects Barbara Weiss in 2001. We occupy two floors, with two inter-connecting classrooms in the basement and an attractive and functional log cabin in the garden.
Inhabiting a building which once housed a butcher’s shop and, later, council housing offices, the premises were transformed into their current form with the backing of Westminster City Council, funds from the European Regional Development Fund via the Queen’s Park Urban initiative, and in partnership with Network Housing Association.
From front line to centre of learning
At the time we moved in, the street was known as ‘The Front Line’ and was dominated by a large adult gang. It is a little quieter now, thanks partly perhaps to the influence of the Learning Store.
The Learning Store’s attractive shop front and interior are at once smart and welcoming, forming a unique space in the area and one highly conducive to learning. It is in this tranquil and focused environment, amid a carefully selected collection of books, and from the comfort of a sofa, that literacy advertises itself as an aspiration. And literacy and English language become easily accessible.
A day in the life
A typical day at the Learning Store sees people of a huge range of backgrounds and ages dropping in to inquire about studying or volunteering with Real Action, to borrow books, or simply to catch up and let us know about their children’s progress.
Our spacious, book-filled front room is often thronged with families in pursuit of after-school literacy classes or classes during school holidays.
All of this happens against the background of our regular literacy and English classes, and our day-to-day administrative tasks.
Every day people come in for assessments and guidance. In an informal manner, with a minimum of fuss, we ascertain the educational wishes, anxieties and needs of the children, young people and adults who seek our help. These initial interviews result in swift allocation to the courses and classes that transform their opportunities. It makes our ethos of service by the community, for the community, a reality.