Veteran Hackney campaigner Pat Turnbull on her fight for the Britannia Leisure Centre and tenants’ rights

Pat Turnbull outside the Britannia Leisure Centre

Pat Turnbull outside the Britannia Leisure Centre - Credit: Pat Turnbull

Pat Turnbull has recently been in the Gazette’s pages because of her fight to save the Britannia Leisure Centre – but she’s been a campaigner in Hackney for decades. She talks to Emma Bartholomew

Pat Turnbull dressed up for a school play on the isle of Orkney

Pat Turnbull dressed up for a school play on the isle of Orkney - Credit: pat turnbull

“We do not give up,” stalwart campaigner Pat Turnbull tells the Gazette.

Pat, 70, has been battling the council for years over its plan to demolish the Britannia Leisure Centre ever since she saw it “hidden away” in the Hackney Plan from 2014.

The town hall wants to replace it with a school, a new leisure centre, and luxury flats, but Pat says the plan is unnecessary and will take amenities away from the people who already live there.

“When they put out the glossy brochures they are hoping that everyone will give up, either because they think there is no point or they believe the story they have been told,” Pat believes.

After she was born in Dundee, Pat’s family moved around Scotland before heading to Yorkshire when she was a teenager. She was excited to come to the bustling capital at 18 to study English at uni – and has lived here virtually ever since. Despite retaining a broad Scottish accent, she regards herself as a Londoner.

Eventually she began teaching at a Tottenham secondary school, where she stayed for 25 years – despite the rapid staff turnover around her.

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“It was a period of turmoil when a lot of schools had become comprehensive for the first time,” said the mother-of-two. “There was a lot of disruptive behaviour.”

She considers herself “very lucky” to have been allocated a council flat in 1982 on South Hackney’s Kingshold Estate, compared with teachers now who can’t afford to live near where they work.

When the estate was demolished and regenerated in the 1990s she began her fight for tenants’ rights, which continues to this day.

“It was such an upheaval having your home knocked down and having to move to a new one,” said Pat – who has sat on the tenants’ and residents’ association for 19 years, and is a delegate on the London Tenants Federation.

If the Britannia development goes ahead, Pat thinks there must be more genuinely affordable housing there.

“There are a lot of poorly served people whose needs are ignored and it’s important to stick up for them and give them the opportunity to stick up for themselves,” she said. “Often people aren’t informed about things that will affect their lives in the future.”