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Bristol Post
Bristol Post
Yvonne Deeney

Leaders of 'lifeline' Kuumba Centre in St Pauls asked to vacate building

The managing board of Bristol’s longest-running African-heritage community centre have been asked by Bristol City Council to vacate the premises in St Pauls. The current leadership team remain in the Kuumba Centre and say they have no plans to step down from their roles, and had hoped that an ongoing dispute with the council could be resolved amicably.

Kuumba’s current management team say they will mark the 60th African Liberation Day with Rastafarian (Nyabinghi) chanting and prayers this weekend. The council confirmed it asked them to "hand back the property" by May 23, but said it had "sought an amicable resolution".

The team is calling on members of the public for support and is planning a summer public engagement event with the local community to set a shared vision for the future of the centre, which was set up in 1974. There is currently no formal eviction notice but the current leadership of the centre, who took over ten years ago, claimed that council has called them ‘trespassers’ and would like to bring in a new group to manage the community building.

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Kuumba’s manager, Sister Nwanyi, has been connected to the centre since her teenage years, when she came to Bristol to live in the Rastafari community. Sister Nwanyi said: “The current Kuumba board are willing to work with the council to address concerns, and work towards securing a lease and delivering ambitious plans to move the centre and those we serve forward. Since 2012, we have cared for the premises with largely personal investments.

“We received no financial support or operational support from Bristol City Council. It is through pure voluntary efforts that we have been providing services to the community – the value of which is reflected in our having won the Best Community Centre 2022 RISE Award.”

Andrew Hayes, a freelance musician, said: “Music plays an important role in social cohesion, and the opportunity to come together through music at Kuumba is a lifeline for many people. I’ve been witness to the many community activities going on including workshops for young people, supporting local businesses, mental health support, community cafes, dance groups and fitness groups. With gentrification, Kuumba is needed now more than ever to support those who have been here for generations."

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “Kuumba Project Ltd (KPL) currently occupy a council owned property on Hepburn Road without a lease and without the express consent of the local authority. The council sought an amicable resolution and recently asked KPL to hand back the property by 23 May.

"We remain in contact with KPL and will continue to seek a solution for the unit holders within the building.”

The centre which has historically been the heart of St Pauls Carnival offers a range of mental health support groups, music and dance workshops. The Kuumba Centre is self-funded and volunteer run by the Kuumba Project Limited.


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