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Friends of Sir Joseph Hood Playing Fields


‘The Friends’ was set up in 2003 in response to the threat of paddling pool closure and a decline in the park. Park users felt intimidated by drug users and underage drinkers and reported increased vandalism, graffiti and littering following a decrease in security. 

Since its formation, the Friends has benefitted from the tireless work of Caroline Ventom, Sophie Cabral, Dianne Walker and Lucy Hill who in 2004 successfully campaigned to overturn the decision to close the paddling pool and have fought hard to raise funding and work with the council and the community to improve the park’s facilities.  Among their achievements was the installation of new playground equipment, a basketball/multi sports area, resurfacing of the tennis courts, installation of the crazy golf and fitness equipment and the formation of a Friends Cafe. In addition the Friends were intrinsic to the Park successfully securing the prestigious Green Flag status from 2008 - 2014. 

The park is now a true family friendly hub of the community frequented and appreciated by many. However, further cuts have meant that for a number of years the park no longer has a full time park keeper and the facility management is shared between a number of parks which means more emphasis on the Friends and community groups to keep a diligent eye out to ensure it does not yet again decline. Further to this, cuts in funding have meant that in 2015 the council has again tabled the closure of the park’s paddling pool and the Green Flag was also lost. This prompted a resurgence in local interest and an increased membership in the Friends and some new initiatives. 

On 5th November the Friends held their annual AGM to review the activities to date and to discuss a new committee structure. A summary of the AGM follows. 

Events from 2015/16 include a Dog walking community day, a Bat walking expedition, a Family Fun run and Splash Dance event (both to raise awareness for the proposed closure of the paddling pool) a Crazy Golf clean up session (in partnership with the Wimbledon 22nd Scout group) and several litter picking events. 

A  marketing campaign was set up to lobby against the closure of the paddling pool, seeking to replace it instead with a Splash Pad. The campaign included a manual and online petition, liaison with the local media and a social media presence was created with the creation of a Friends Facebook Group and a twitter account. 

The Friends logo was rebranded and a newsletter was produced. Local businesses, schools and community engagement was engendered and local sponsors endorsed the campaigns sponsoring publicity. Publicity from the local paper and a short film was put together presenting the case for the Splash Pad.  As a result of this, the paddling pool was opened for the Summer of 2106 and a verified anonymous pledge of £50,000 was received towards the building of a Splash Pad in 2017/18. Additionally, the Friends assisted the council in their bid to regain Green Flag Status for 206/17 and were successful in doing so.  

Ahead of the pool’s opening, the Friends took the decision to move the Friends Cafe into the Golf Hut and sought to establish support amongst the public. They organised and set up a rota opening the cafe on a regular basis throughout the summer. They took on the running of the Crazy Golf on behalf of the council and as a result took profits of £7,000 over the summer period. During the AGM it was agreed that the Friends would pledge this in addition to £3,000 raised previously by the Friends to Merton Council towards a Splash Pad Fund for Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Field. The Friends continue to run the Cafe, Crazy Golf on a rota basis on Sunday mornings. 9 - 12. 

As the current fundraising aim for the Friends is for a Splash Pad the Friends are investigating moving the committee to charity status going forwards. Attendees at the AGM were asked to vote upon taking this process forward and all voted in favour of doing so. In the face of the new proposed structure for the Friends, new roles were voted on for the committee. 

The current chair and vice chair, Caroline Venom and Sophie Cabral outlined their wish to step down in these roles and the following roles were voted upon and agreed:

·       Interim Chair - Jane Pritchard

·                                    Executive Committee - Sophie Cabral, Caroline Venom, Kate North and Dianne Walker

·       Secretary/membership - Sarah Thorne 

·       Treasurer - Damian Kiernan


The friends are seeking anyone with knowledge or expertise in the following areas: 


·           Setting up a charity

·           Fundraising/Marketing

·           Website development


Please do get in touch if you think you can help in anyway or would like to become a lifetime member for £5. We welcome your support!

Sarah Thorne 


If you have not already joined, please do join our Facebook group: Friends of Sir Joseph Hood Memorial Playing Field. 

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