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Maypole dance for vandalised ‘art loo’

07 May, 2019 — By Will Nott

Children dancing around the maypole to raise funds for the vandalised art loo

CHILDREN danced around a maypole to raise money for a vandalised “art loo” in the heart of Soho.

The toilet, which is based in St Anne’s Gardens in Wardour Street, was organised by the Soho Green charity and is filled with art from students.

Parents and teachers came to a picnic in the green and watched the pupils who had each brought £1 along to donate to the cause

The headteacher of Soho Parish Primary School Louise Ritchie said: “Maypole dancing is a great activity for children to do together because it encourages teamwork, musicality and they really enjoy putting on a performance.

“It’s a good opportunity for our families to come along and mix together, have a picnic with their children and celebrate the start of summer.”

Ms Ritchie said the art loo was an important facility that allows teachers and students to spend more time in the gardens. Its windows were smashed in February and the Soho Green charity is looking for £11,000 to repair it.

The ‘art loo’ in St Anne’s Gardens

She said: “It’s great to get the kids into the outdoors. A lot of these children won’t have a garden at home.

“At school we have a playground which we have made the most of. We have built a second deck on it and we now have a garden space ourselves.

“But any time you can get out into nature is really beneficial. Some of these kids will grow up only touching plastic so this is an opportunity for them to touch grass, bark and stones and all of this has an impact on brain development.”

St Anne’s Gardens was not always for children to play in but drug addicts no longer dominate the green space.

Sylvia Young, who chairs the Soho Green trustees, and whose daughter went to the school, said: “It was a knee-jerk reaction to the crack drug problem of the time and we wanted to make good St Anne’s Gardens because before that it was full of drug dealers and needles. And so we did.”

The charity installed the art loo as well as a light wall to keep people out of the gardens at night and has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds in funding.

But the art loo fell into disrepair over the years and was vandalised last February.

Ms Young said: “I was angry, disappointed and exasperated. The loo had been there for 10 years and nothing like that had happened.

“The beautiful windows were smashed, it was such a shame.

“You have to remember it’s a community space and we had the courage to put ourselves out there and that’s what we got. It felt like an invasion of our home.”

Now the charity is looking for £11,000 to restore the loo to its former glory. The pupils will be involved in the process and are set to do workshops to make more art for the space.

Ms Young said: “I felt completely humbled that each child gave a pound. They are so generous. It really doesn’t get better than that.”

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