Tanglewood Monday Club was formed by Harrow Council social workers in 1965 and met for the very first time on Monday October 4th of that year.  The venue chosen for this social club was Tanglewood Hostel (which is how we got our name) in Common Road, Stanmore. You have to give credit to the Council’s social workers for their foresight – it was a full year before National Mencap set up their first social club for people with a learning disability under the “Gateway” banner.

For the first five years the club was run by social workers and/or their appointed leaders but from 1970 ‘till the present day, Tanglewood has been run entirely by volunteers.  The very first outing for Tanglewood members was on 6th February 1967 when a group went to see the “Ice show” at Wembley arena. Later that year we organised a day trip to Littlehampton. These Summer Outings have continued and in 2018 we organised our 59th outing.

Group photo from 1972

The first volunteer club leader was Bob Ramsey who was appointed in August 1970. In January 1971 he resigned and Geoff Havard took over and have been the club leader ever since.

In 1975 we were told by Harrow Council that we would have to vacate our club room whilst extensive alterations were made to allow access for wheelchairs in preparation for the building to be used as a day centre.  Tanglewood moved to temporary premises in Marlborough Hill before moving to the Brember Centre in South Harrow.  This purpose built day centre for adults with a learning disability was to become our home for the next 34 years.

Outside our new home in 2009

   In June 2009 Harrow Council closed down the day centre and once again we found ourselves homeless. The Council did offer us an alternative club room but it was too small for the number of members we had.  Finding a new home was becoming very difficult, in fact we were on the brink of closing down completely when, at the very last minute, we were offered the main hall at the ground of Harrow Borough football club.  It turned out to be perfect for our needs with the bonus that we could have our very own store room…

   So, on Monday August 3rd the club entered a new era when we met for the first time in our new home.  The down-side was that we had to pay rent for the first time in our history, but on the plus side instead of Tanglewood being based in a building that most of our members regarded as their “work place” we were now “in the  community” and I think this was an important step towards integration.

   As if losing our club room wasn’t bad enough, three years later there was more bad news when Harrow Council, as part of their cut-backs, decided to withdraw their minibuses. They had been providing all our transport needs continuously from day one, now it was to be withdrawn. This was devastating news and meant that we would have to find a way of paying for transport which, by 2017 was costing over £16,000 per annum. This was on top of the £7,200 per annum we are paying for rent. The transport costs became unsustainable and in November 2017 TFL-funded Dial-a-Ride offered to take on all our transport needs for free.

   Our attendance figures have always been high – the eighties were the boom times for Tanglewood with Average weekly attendances of 85+  In fact on two Mondays in 1983 our attendance reached a peak of 101 club members.  In the nineties this had dropped to an average of around 70. By the turn of the century we were still averaging 70 but this has dropped in recent year to around 60.  Still an impressive number.

   In 1972 we started organising holidays for our members – in that year I took six boys to Butlins at Filey in Yorkshire.  Our last club holiday was forty years later in 2012 by which time we had organised a grand total of 68 holidays involving 1,575 club members and 450 volunteers – they varied from large groups of 40+ to small groups self-catering. We were the first social club for adults with a learning disability to visit Disneyworld in Florida (1981). Other notable holidays were to Tenerife (3 times), Turkey, Tunisia, Italy and Spain (several times).

   On a normal club night we have a variety of activities going on including pool, & darts, coupled with these activities are competitions – the first of these was Darts singles which started in 1988 we then added Darts doubles, Pool singles & doubles.  These are all great fun and bring a little competitiveness into the proceedings.

Our members on a club holiday

   Finance has always been to difficult subject – our turnover these days is well in excess of £30,000 – when the club first formed in 1965 the social workers were given £40 to set it all up!  Accurate finances only go back to 1975 and the end of that financial year we had just £114 in the bank, ten years later this had grown to £1,424, by 1995 it was £2,819 move on another ten years and it was still only £4,711. In our 50th anniversary year, 2015, our expenditure was £37.788  and bank balance stood at £13,636.
Our total expenditure from 1975 to 2018 is well over half a million pounds.

   Raising all this money has always been difficult. In 1983 we set up at “100 Club” and that has brought in over £67,000 roughly the same amount has been received from donations. We have always maintained close links with Harrow Council who formed the club in the first place and over the years we have received over £100,000 in grants from them.  There is an argument that the cash-stripped local authorities should not be responsible for providing grants to organisations like ours that provide evening leisure activities, but we do provide a vital service to the community by giving our members a chance to meet up socially with their friends which helps with their self-esteem and I am sure that most people who live if Harrow would not mind some of their Council tax being used for this purpose. Obtaining these grants is becoming increasingly more difficult but it is worth remembering that our club members themselves have contributed almost £90,000 in weekly subscriptions which currently stand at £3.00.

   In December 1979 we started publishing a monthly newsletter, later to be called the “Tanglewood Magazine”, we are very proud of this publication which, not only contains news of our activities, but also contains items of interest to parents and carers of our members and more general items of interest. With a few exceptions it has been published every month since 1979 and we are approaching our 450th publication. The past 12 months editions are available to download from this web site.

   Now in our 54th year I am very proud to say the Tanglewood names lives on and our aims & objectives remains the same – to provide leisure activities for adults with a learning disability.