Affinity Community

In 1989 I started a discussion group in Belsize Park, North-West London

and in 1990 as it began to slowly evolve, gave it the name Affinity Community. Although it had begun as a discussion group – it started to grow into a community of people. There wasn’t the Internet to advertise it on at that time and so it was advertised in Timeout, Loot and primarily Swiss Cottage Library – London (a very dynamic affair – in very large and spacious buildings – with various social activities). The Swiss Cottage Library as I remember at that time – covered a huge range of provisions – it had various mother-child activities – including a very large department for psychology, the whole range of therapies, humanistic, psychotherapy and analytical, philosophy, and a dazzling variety of publications on spirituality. *It was the best source of members – in my opinion – for Affinity Community.

This continued into September 1995. At that point – I focused entirely on my therapy work – and my voluntary work – which included work in therapeutic communities for people in emotional distress et cetera.

Meetings for the discussion group were once a week, and according to demand sometimes twice a week.
We would discuss contemporary ideas in regards to existentialism, phenomenology, society, contemporary politics – often the group would select a topic to discuss the following week – sometimes it would be feminism – sometimes it would be therapeutic developments in the humanistic field – but all sorts of topics – as the attendees – would usually attend lots of other organisations around London, of which there were so very many – and it was quite impossible to know about them all. Because of this – members brought all sorts of new ideas into the community from this vast assortment of activities taking place in London. People also came from all around the world – as is a feature of course of London. Some members of the discussion group – also became friends – and would meet up outside of the actual discussion meetings.

A QUARTERLY MAGAZINE was produced – hundreds of copies on a single production. Members produced articles for this magazine – and journalists of sorts who were just visiting London who had heard about the small magazine submitted pieces of various natures – and contributions also included interviews with well-known people – who of course inhabited or were visiting London. Opportunities were taken to interview them where possible. Curiously even though it was a small production – many were obliging – although some people who did the interviews – would primarily be publishing in magazines with large productions – which perhaps was what attracted their attention – the editors of which would occasionally visit Affinity Community – and there was no objections to story or articles going in the Affinity Community Magazine as well, being such a limited and local production. It is possible things would be very different today – but that is how it was then. I myself frequently met well-known people in some of the interesting café’s in Belsize Park, some of whom I was able to strike up conversations with. There was one particular large and spacious café – designed rather on a French, or continental style setting – where well-known people occasionally went – which was my local place to eat.

There were four gatherings a year for this community – these were held on the solstices – involved a very eclectic mix – starting in the early afternoon and going on into the early hours of the next day.

The first half of the evening involved people bringing things to read – usually of a spiritual nature – completed by a short meditation (which included the majority of those who were present by that time). Some people brought their children – as young as five years and others older – who would attend the first half – and then we would have a break for about an hour and a half – for a very elaborate buffet, various kinds of food, wine, huge punch-bowls et cetera – that was laid out on long trestle tables.

The second half of the evening would start around 8:30 PM – to which some people brought musical instruments – and would sing, while playing guitars et cetera. Some extraordinary good performers came – and then at some point after the performers had completed – it would be turned into a discotheque – the music and arrangements were supervised by an ex-nightclub owner – where she had a real flair for such entertainment.

On the very last Summer Solstice gathering, a count was made of the people present – and it was estimated at considerably more than 150.

Affinity community closed September 1995

Others were interested in continuing with it – but proved reluctant to actually taking it on themselves. I was often asked if I missed Affinity after I ceased to continue with it (as I had then decided to focus on my rather ‘late in life career’) – and my reply each time was roughly as so:

‘Well, yes in a way – but it was awful lot of work!’.