One of Muswell Hill’s most loved charities is celebrating twenty five years of providing a meeting place and event space for the local community this month. CUFOS or Community Use of the Old Station has made it to a quarter of a century! Run entirely by local volunteers and receiving no subsidies or grants it is completely self sufficient.
The charity leases the building from the Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust. It is the former station for the train line that used to run up to Ally Pally via Highgate and Muswell Hill. The last train ran on 3rd July 1954, and the building was empty after that. After the Ally Pally fire of 1980, repairs started to be made to the main building around 1984. At about that same time, people in the area, started discussing making the old railway station available for community use. The group called themselves Community Use For the Old Station and the name stuck.
The building was a wreck when Cufos acquired it and the Ally Pally Trust originally paid for the building’s restoration in the mid 1980’s. Since then, Cufos has taken full responsibility for the building’s maintenance. In the early days the committee members – many of whom had babies and toddlers to look after – personally saw to the building’s cleaning, spending large chunks of their weekends scrubbing it down. Now a cleaner comes in and cleans the building three times a week, though they still rely on all the users to help keep the building clean for others.
The aim from the start was to have a place the community could use for such activities as toddler playgroups, classes, and social activities. Over the years, many groups have been able to use the building for a tremendous variety of purposes. These have included: Yoga, Pilates, Tae Kwondo and other exercise classes. A baroque orchestra, a revivalist church, antenatal classes, children’s cookery, arts and crafts classes, a French club and a sailing club!
Currently CUFOS has more than 30 different groups who use the building during the week. Some of them use it anywhere from two to four times a week, others only once or twice a month. The current user groups include Hilltop Playgroup, jazz, wind, and drum bands, art classes for adults, French and Spanish classes for adults, sound therapy sessions, Alcoholics Anonymous, MS Society, Women’s Institute and a WI knitting group. To run Cufos, the original core group formed the charity as a not for profit organisation. Cufos has paid its own way from the start, and the committee have been able to keep the building well maintained and to keep costs down for the groups who use it.
On Sunday the 15th of September CUFOS is having a free for all Open Day from midday until 5.00pm so if you want to learn more and maybe even consider getting involved as a volunteer, CUFOS is always on the look out for new helpers then go along to The Top of The Avenue N10 2QE and enjoy free food, drinks and fun! (www.cufos.org.uk).