08 February 2024
The Wednesday Club, a hidden treasure in the heart of Marylebone
A few minutes’ walk from Oxford Street in London, Hinde Street Methodist Church offers meals to people in need. The Club, as it is known, is open twice a week on Wednesdays and Thursdays, on Wednesday’s hot food is cooked on the premises, while on Thursday's homemade sandwiches or those donated by local cafes are shared.
At 3pm, people have already arrived and are waiting for the volunteers to serve the food. Most of the clients are regulars and they know each other. Michelangelo has been coming to the Wednesday Club for the past six years. “It’s good food and great people. We are still in touch with Belinda, the previous vicar, who is now in Scarborough. Sometimes we even have a video call with her from here,” says Michelangelo as, with a friendly smile, he quickly picks up his food before going to sit in the room to carry on his conversation.
Michelangelo is one of many who have enjoyed the food, companionship and warmth of the Wednesday club since it moved to Hinde Street Methodist Church in 1986. “We provide food, small items of clothing, toiletries and sleeping bags. Many people who come here are homeless, some of them do have places to live, but they still come perhaps because they are in unsuitable accommodation, in places they don't like or they need some company. Getting out of the cold and having a meal helps save money. Most of the people who come are regulars,” says Alan, who has been a member of the church for decades and has been a volunteer at The Club for over 10 years.
The Club runs independently from Hinde Street Methodist Church. It used to depend financially on the church but the Club is now supported by the charitable wing of a financial company. They currently have fifteen volunteers, half of them are from the church and the other half are good Samaritans who have come to London from around the world and work to help the church’s outreach including Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela. Caroline, from the US, has been volunteering for the past five years, “I found this place randomly and wanted to come back and see if I could help out.”
Bantering with the attendees, the Wednesday Club’s volunteers provide food, warmth and an ear to anyone who wishes to have a chat, but the volunteers don’t pry. “The clients are a nice bunch, very friendly, but we don't go into people's backgrounds and ask them uncomfortable questions. Some of them are happy to talk a lot, some don’t, and both are fine,” adds Alan.
Most of the attendees are British and the average age is about 60 years old. The number of attendees remains constant during the year.
“We could expect the numbers to go up because of the increase in the number of people sleeping rough. It doesn’t for us which might be due to the fact that we don’t really advertise our service, it’s more a word of mouth,” explains Alan. A drastic increase in attendees would be a struggle as the room used for the club can have no more than 50 people at a time and the volunteers could be overwhelmed.
There was one young man who was working as a musician and security guard for a church at night but was living on the streets during the day. Despite lacking the funds to afford his accommodation, he invested his money in a camera to make a film that was previewed in the West End. Now, he is pursuing a degree in filmmaking, thanks to his determination and talent and the support of the West London Mission.
In his time of need, he could count on Hinde Street Methodist Church's Wednesday Club where he received meals and listening ears from volunteers and other attendees. “It’s fantastic to hear stories like that. I can't say that we help, but he used to come here every week. So we helped in that sense, just by providing him somewhere to go. That's what we're doing and will keep on doing,” concludes Alan.