Image: iStock/Alina Rosanova
This is not something we thought we’d be writing in 2022, but here goes. Many London councils and other organisations are opening warm banks (also known as warm havens, warm spaces, heat hubs or warm places) this winter, to offer people somewhere warm to spend their time, if they cannot afford to heat their own homes, or if they don’t have a home of their own.
If you find yourself in need of a food bank this winter, we’ve got a guide to London food banks too. 2022, eh?
What is a warm bank?
A warm bank is simply a public space — often a library or community centre — which is open to the public during the day. You can go and spend time there, for free, if you are struggling to heat your home and keep warm, energy costs being what they are right now.
It’s thought that at least half of councils across England and Wales will be opening some sort of warm bank this winter. Many offer other services too, such as WiFi, food and drink, events and activities, or help and support around the cost of living crisis.
Which London councils are opening warm banks?
Many London borough councils are operating warm banks this winter, in libraries and other council-owned buildings, and some have teamed up with local groups to use other buildings, such as places of worship. Here’s what each London council is offering, as of early December 2022 — do check with individual venues for opening times, facilities and the like before you set off, as they vary from council to council and building to building.
Barking and Dagenham
Known as ‘Warm Community Spaces’, Barking and Dagenham Council is working with local organisations to open warm spaces in at least 15 different locations, including libraries, community hubs, churches and a mosque. Find out about Barking and Dagenham Warm Community Spaces.
Barnet Council has put out a call for local organisations to provide a warm space for local residents. At time of writing, the ‘Current Warm Spaces’ section of the website directs residents towards libraries, as well as Age UK’s local warm spaces.
Libraries, churches and Wellington Salvation Army are among Bexley Council’s warm spaces.
Brent Council suggests using your local library. Otherwise, it directs residents to the national Warm Welcome website to find somewhere local.
Bromley’s libraries, though not officially described as warm spaces, are offering “the comfort of a warm place this winter”, with tea and coffee being served. Bromley Council also directs residents to the Bromley Well website, which has a map of Warm Centres. It’s mainly libraries, churches and community centres, but a couple of local cafes have signed up too.
Most of London’s public libraries double up as warm banks. Image: Devon Divine via Unsplash
Libraries, children’s centres and community buildings are being used as ‘warm welcome’ spaces across Camden. As well as offering somewhere to spend time, people can get support and advice on the cost of living crisis in these spaces.
City of London
The Barbican Library, Artizan Street Library & Community Centre, and Shoe Lane Library are all offering drop-in events and activities throughout winter such as coffee morning and children’s play sessions, as part of City of London’s efforts to help residents tackle living costs. Funding is also available to other charities and organisations which want to offer warm spaces within the City of London, though it doesn’t look as if any of these have been set up yet.
Sorry, Croydonites — it doesn’t look like Croydon Council has any official warm spaces yet (resulting in criticism of the local mayor). But scroll down to the next section for details of other warm spaces in your area.
Libraries and leisure, community, day care and children’s centres are opening their doors as warm spaces in Ealing this winter, offering west Londoners many options.
All 17 of Enfield Council’s libraries are operating as warm spaces this winter, and you’re directed to the Warm Welcome website to find other places within the borough.
Libraries, churches and children’s centres make up the bulk of the 20+ warm spaces in the Royal Borough of Greenwich. Some are spaces where you can go to relax or work, while others offer activities, usually free of charge.
Hackney Council has teamed up with local venues to offer warm spaces — you’ll need to browse the Warm Spaces and Warm Welcome websites to find your nearest one.
Warm banks can be a place to socialise as well as warm up. Image: cottonbro studio via Pexels
Hammersmith & Fulham
At time of writing, Hammersmith & Fulham Council doesn’t appear to have made any provision for warm spaces in its borough.
A series of ‘Local Living Rooms’ are available in Haringey, across local businesses and organisations, and places of worship. Some of them offer free hot drinks or food to those in need via the Wall of Kindness scheme, and anyone can ‘pay it forward’ in these venues, by buying an extra coffee or pastry which will then be provided to someone who needs it.
Leisure centres and churches are among the warm hubs and spaces provided in association with Harrow Council. There’s a financial appeal open, for anyone who’s able to donate towards the costs of running the warm hubs and providing food and drink to those using them.
Libraries, leisure centres, community centres and community hubs across Havering are open as warm spaces via various events and activities, including over-50s and over-60s social clubs, coffee mornings and community cafes. Details on the Havering Council website.
Hillingdon Council doesn’t appear to have made any provision for warm spaces in its borough yet this year.
All 11 libraries and four leisure centres across Hounslow are open as warm spaces until March 2023, and charity and voluntary organisations are offering additional venues too, including Cranford Community College and Brentford FC.
London Irish Centre, Highbury Baptist Church, the Museum of the Order of St John, and local libraries and community centres are among the warm community spaces listed by Islington Council.
Kensington and Chelsea
24 venues across Kensington and Chelsea are open to the public this winter, from council buildings to community centres and places of worship — see the full list on the Kensington and Chelsea website.
The Museum of the Order of St John is one of the designated warms spaces in Islington. Image: [email protected]/Londonist
Sports centres, libraries and churches form the bulk of Kingston’s warm spaces, some of which are provided by the council itself, and others by local community and voluntary groups.
Lambeth Council offers a map of warm spaces in its area, including libraries and churches. Some offer hot food, activities and services — check individual venues for details.
Head to a local library if you’re looking for a warm space in Lewisham, as they’re open to anyone looking for somewhere to warm up this winter. Lewisham Council has also partnered with other local groups to create Lewisham Warm Welcomes — Sydenham Arts, Forest Hill Pools and the Horniman Museum are all on the list.
Merton’s seven libraries are the place to head for a warm space in that borough, though organisations which are opening their own warm space can add those to the website too, so check back for any additions.
Warm Havens is the name Newham Council is giving to its official warm spaces. Again, they largely consist of libraries and community centres, but you can filter the map by facilities (wifi, study spaces, baby changing facilities…).
17 Community Living Rooms have been established in Redbridge, at libraries, community halls and places of worship, with more due to be added to the list soon.
Richmond’s Warm Spaces Directory is an interactive map of places opening their doors to the public — though note that some have age restrictions on who can use them. Other organisations can have their warm space added to the map too.
Southwark Council’s website offers very precise information about when each of its warm banks is open, and who can use it when. They range from libraries and social clubs to the Tate Modern.
Sutton is another borough offering up its libraries as warm spaces this winter — with trained volunteers on hand to help you through the cost of living crisis.
After taking a deep dive in Tower Hamlets Council’s website, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the borough isn’t providing any sort of warm banks or heated spaces for local residents. However, Tower Hamlets Homes, which manages homes on behalf of the council, tweeted a day-by-day guide to when local warm spaces are open (h/t Diamond Geezer for spotting that one):
Our warm banks are now available across Tower Hamlets where you can relax, meet up with others & enjoy refreshments in a safe & warm space.
For more information on support avaliable visit https://t.co/cDmTPOasda#WarmBanks #CostOfLiving #OnTheMoney pic.twitter.com/XK0SnahKbs
— Tower Hamlets Homes (@THHomes) November 25, 2022
Waltham Forest Council has put together a network of winter spaces, comprising community living rooms (predominantly places of worship) which are free places to socialise or work, community kitchens where those in need can get a free or subsidised meal, and libraries, which provide desk space and wifi for working, and free events.
Wandsworth Council has launched a Warm Spaces Charter, outlining the standards of all of the warm spaces in its borough. You’ll find your nearest venue in the Warm Spaces Directory — again, it’s mainly a mix of libraries, churches and children’s centres.
Westminster Council’s upbeat Winter in the City page is a little different to the others on this list. Rather than offering specific warm spaces, it offers a guide to free-entry venues where you can pass some time (such as the National Gallery), and venues which offer free activities, such as local libraries.
Other warm banks in London
Southbank Centre hosts The Lounge, a community space that anyone can visit for free. Image: [email protected]/Londonist
Beyond the provisions made by local borough councils, some organisations and community groups have set up their own warm spaces this winter.
AGE UK: The Barnet branch of Age UK is hosting its own warm spaces for older people this winter. Check with your local branch of Age UK to see if they offer anything similar.
BETTER LEISURE CENTRES: Better, the organisation which operates swimming pools, libraries and leisure centres across London and beyond, is hosting warm space sessions at 40 of its venues nationwide this winter, including Croydon, Lewisham and Merton. Details on the Better website.
SOUTHBANK CENTRE: Though not officially described as a ‘warm bank’ or ‘warm space’, Southbank Centre hosts The Lounge, a community space that anyone can visit for free, either with friends or alone, to read, work, or play games. Open 8-30 December.
OASIS WATERLOO: The Oasis Centre in Waterloo opens its doors as a community space where everyone is welcome, and free hot drinks are provided. There’s also a community fridge and ‘give and take clothes rail’ for those in need — or those who are able to contribute something for those in need.
BROMLEY: St Barnabas Church in Bromley offers warm space sessions on Tuesday afternoons, including a chance to socialise and play board games with other people there.
CROYDON: As we said above, Croydon Council doesn’t seem to have any information on warm spaces in the borough, but there are a few places you can go. St Paul’s United Reformed Church offers a warm space every Thursday (you’ll need to book, as places are limited). The cafes in local leisure centres (operated on behalf of the council) are being offered as warm spaces, and Crystal Palaces FC’s Selhurst Park is opening a weekly warm bank for over-65s.
OTHER WARM SPACES: Warm Welcome and Warm Spaces are free, nationwide websites offering a guide to warm spaces all over the UK. Use the map on each site to find a free warm venue near you
Know anywhere that we’ve missed? Share the information in the comments.
How do warm banks work?
For the most part, you don’t need to book ahead — just turn up as and when you need it. Some open every day, while some are just a few hours or days a week, and some offer organised activities, while others are places where you can take a book, a game or some work and spend a few hours entertaining yourself. Check details with individual venues before you set off.
Who can use warm spaces?
Warm spaces are generally open to anyone who needs them, though some are restricted to people over a certain age (see the Age UK and Selhurst Park examples, above). The majority of councils and organisations are keen to stress that their warm banks are friendly and welcoming spaces, so you should be welcomed without any questions. That said, some warm banks do offer help and advice for anyone struggling with the cost of living, so sharing details of your situation — if you’re comfortable doing so — might mean someone is able to offer you some support.