History of JLL

The Junior League of London (JLL) was founded in 1978 as the London Service League. Over its 30+ year history in London, the JLL has delivered hundreds of thousands of hours of community service and contributed over a million pounds towards volunteer training initiatives and towards direct support for the London community.

Some of the issues we have tackled include homelessness, environmental concerns, the social exclusion of the elderly, the special needs of the physically challenged, and domestic violence, as well as increasing access to and appreciation of the arts for tens of thousands of London residents. We bring innovative and distinctive approaches to our work, which has been recognised locally, nationally and internationally.

Today, our programmes range from mentoring at-risk young people to increasing literacy among children from ages 0-11 and providing gifts and essentials to families in need during the holidays. Visit the Community programmes section for more information about our current programmes and community focus.

In February 2010, we were honoured and delighted to celebrate our 25th anniversary as a member of the Association of Junior Leagues International. In celebrating our anniversary, we had an opportunity to look back at the accomplishments of the JLL including the following highlights.

Historical Highlights of the Junior League of London

1978 The London Service League (LSL), a precursor to the Junior League of London, is founded.

In 1979, LSL volunteers organised the first Boutique de Noel, which earned £3,000 in its inaugural year. Now an annual event, this fundraiser helps the JLL raise a significant amount each year to fund our charitable mission.

That same year the LSL launched its three new community programmes. The first, a Drug Awareness programme, provided a folio of information and the film “Reading, Writing and Reefer” for loan to schools. This was a one-year programme.

That same year, the LSL also introduced a programme with Delaware Home, providing tea, chats, a sundries trolley, and holiday parties for elderly residents, as well as a programme with the Chelsea Pensioners, through which LSL members included Chelsea Pensioners in their own family activities. These programmes were active between 1979 and 1982.

1980 In 1980, the LSL kicked off a further two new community programmes: one withLinley-Sambourne House, assisting the Victorian Society in preparing the house for public viewing and providing guides; and a second with the Developmental Centre, offering classes in arts and crafts, music, swimming and movement for children with learning difficulties. These programmes were active between 1980 and 1985.

In 1981, the first edition of Living in London was printed. With the support of Chase Manhattan Bank, the book was priced at £5. Now in its 10th edition, this guide for expats recently relocated to London continues to be a significant source of revenue for the JLL. In 2003, Living in London was recognised by the Association of Junior Leagues International with an annual award for excellence in fundraising.

Also in 1981, the first edition of Cues newsletter was published. This news and feature-led publication for the membership is also a key external tool to keep our community partners informed of the League’s activities.

1981 also saw the LSL launch its Choral Group, performing for elderly residents of local retirement homes. This was a one-year programme.

1982 In 1982, the LSL undertook a one-year project helping with the Directory of American Focus Organisations, designing, distributing and collating results of a questionnaire to all American-oriented organisations in greater London and compiling the resulting information into a directory.

In 1983, the LSL initiated a one-year project with the London Zoological Society, developing a plan for an exhibition focussing on North American animals; conducting surveys of Zoo visitors; contributing ideas for increasing Zoo attendance; and developing an American Friends of the London Zoo fundraising scheme.

Also in 1983, LSL volunteers staffed the information desk at Sutton Place and worked with the Therapeutic Activities Programme to establish a library, as well as partnering with the Friends of Holland Park to produce the Holland Park Nature Trail, a guide to the flora and fauna and points of interest within Holland Park. These were all one-year projects.


1984 was a particularly productive year for the LSL. In addition to achieving UK charitable status, the LSL launched four new long-term community programmes and three new one-year initiatives.

The first new programme marked the beginning of a major collaboration with theRoyal Academy. Between 1984 and 1992, the League staffed the Royal Academy’s Schools/Information desk in the main lobby, fielding general and art-related enquiries from the public.

Also in 1984, the LSL developed Project Dyslexia, compiling comprehensive resource files which were distributed to 200 schools and teaching centres throughout the UK; providing assistance to parents on the legal rights of dyslexic children; and providing transport to special lessons for dyslexic children. That same year, the LSL instituted its Weybridge Museum Programme, routing and maintaining school loans materials; cataloguing photographs; and copying documents relating to the loans programme. Project Dyslexia and the Weybridge Museum Programme were active between 1984 and 1987.

The final new programme begun in 1984 was the partnership with the Disabled Living Foundation, which involved League volunteers maintaining and circulating literature files and periodicals, providing support for open days and special projects, and recording and distributing minutes for the Advisory Panel on Visual Impairment Project. This programme was active between 1984 and 1989.

The three new one-year community projects developed in 1984 included a collaboration with the John Judkyn Memorial, distributing educational boxes of artefacts from the American Museum to London area schools; a partnership withBenjamin Franklin House, helping to fundraise, publishing and distributing the Craven Street Gazette, and updating their brochure; and an association with thePaddington Integration Project, teaching life skills to children with learning difficulties.

1984 was also the first year that the London League was invited to send delegates to the Association of Junior Leagues International Annual Conference. Since then, the JLL has sent over 100 women to attend best-in-class voluntary and leadership skills trainings sponsored by the Association.


In 1985, the JLL was officially admitted into membership in the Association of Junior Leagues International, an occasion that was recognised by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Also in 1985, the JLL began an initiative with Brooklands Museum, researching and writing a site tour to be used in their brochure; securing items for refurbishing the Club House; assisting in organising fundraising efforts; staffing open days; and interviewing local residents, former employees and others about their memories of the museum as part of an oral history project. This programme was active between 1985 and 1987.


In 1986, the JLL introduced the successful American Kids on the Block programme to the UK: a unique educational programme for children aged 8-12, its purpose was to help children better understand disabilities and special needs. JLL members were trained as puppeteers and then performed in schools, libraries, hospitals, and with youth organisations and religious groups. The JLL transitioned the programme to another volunteer organisation called PHAB (Physically Handicapped and Able Bodied) in 1992.

The same year, the JLL began its collaboration with St Mary Abbot’s Hospital, supplying volunteers to visit geriatric patients in the Nightingale Ward, conducting reminiscence sessions, and organising birthday and holiday parties. This programme was active between 1986 and 1991.

1986 also marked the occasion of a major fundraising and profile-raising event for the JLL: a luncheon with the theme of “Celebrating Volunteers” to raise funds for the JLL and Save the Children, with HRH Princess Anne as the keynote speaker.

Also in 1986, the JLL began its Community Grants programme. Over the 20-year life of this initiative, the JLL provided over £150,000 in direct support to over 30 London charities, including the Disabled Living Foundation, the Guy Fox History Project, the Zimbabwe Community Association, and Sixty Plus.


In 1987, the JLL launched its five-year Personal Life History programme, whereby JLL volunteers facilitated classes throughout London and Surrey based on the theories of D. Laura Hendricks in which over 55 people reminisced and wrote their autobiographies in anecdotal form. Completed autobiographies were then archived in the Museum of London. The JLL successfully turned the project over to communities in Surrey and London for continuation in 1992.

Also in 1987, JLL was honoured to have one of its members, Rosemary Robertson, elected to serve on the Board of the Association of Junior Leagues International, a first for our League. Since then we have had several members serve the Association, including Past Presidents Anne Green (AJLI Area I Council nominee); Leesa Wilson-Goldmuntz and Liz Murley (AJLI Board of Directors); Sarah Wilson (AJLI Resolutions Committee); and Ingrid Jacobson-Pinter (AJLI Nominating Committee).


In 1998, the JLL commenced its work with the Monroe Young Family Centre (MYFC), a joint programme with the Tavistock Clinic and the National Children’s Home in association with the London Borough of Camden Education Authority. The MYFC served as a specialist resource to families with children under five who suffered or who were considered to be at risk of suffering abuse and neglect. JLL volunteers worked alongside staff in play sessions with families and children, undertook structured observations of the interaction between parents and children as part of the Centre’s long-term research, and performed practical tasks to assist in the running of the Centre. This programme was active between 1988 and 1996.

Another exciting development in the 1988-9 League year was the beginning of our external Training Programme. Following a request from the NSPCC, JLL volunteers developed training programmes to be delivered to other voluntary organisations. In the first year of this initiative, JLL volunteers trained over 700 members of NSPCC staff and volunteers in 12 cities across the UK; in the second year, the JLL continued to train NSPCC volunteers and also provided marketing seminars in 10 regional venues to nearly 200 participants in coordination with the National Association of Volunteer Bureaux, just some of the highlights of this remarkable venture.

1989 In 1989, the JLL began another impactful initiative with the Royal Academy, theRoyal Academy Docent Programme. JLL volunteers received training and then gave tours of the permanent collection in the private rooms of Burlington House. Over 500 people enjoyed these tours annually, and in October 1992, this programme received a regional award from the Royal Anniversary Trust for its contribution to the London community. Having recruited a full complement of community volunteers, the JLL handed over the docent programme to the Royal Academy for continuation in 1995.
1990 Beginning in 1990, the JLL published the Ellesmere House Gazette, a quarterly newsletter that provided a forum for the residents, staff and volunteers of this residential home for elderly people to communicate with each other and with the wider community. The newsletter was distributed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to a mailing list of over 2,000 recipients. The programme was active between 1990 and 1995.

1991 saw the introduction of the JLL’s Playspace programme in association with Notting Hill Housing Trust’s Garden House. This programme provided play sessions to children of homeless families at the Bayswater Garden House facility managed by Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT), a longstanding community partner of the JLL. The JLL and NHHT shared the administrative, staffing and financial responsibility for the Playspace scheme. In 1994, the project moved to Fulham in coordination with FULPAC (Fulham Parents and Children Project) prior to the introduction of a similar scheme in the Colville Square area. The Playspace programme was active between 1991 and 1995.

Also in 1991, JLL moved its Headquarters to its current home within the Lansdowne Club.


In 1992, the JLL commenced two further community programmes. The first was its final collaboration with the Royal Academy, the Royal Academy Children’s Workshop. As part of this programme, JLL volunteers assisted the Royal Academy’s Education Department in organising community volunteers for workshops held in conjunction with temporary exhibitions, which included Monet’s Series Paintings, The Great Age of British Water Colours, American Art in the 20th Century, and the Glory of Venice. These workshops consisted of slide lectures delivered by professional art historians and a tour of the exhibition led by the volunteer, followed by a lively but practical session in which the children could express their impressions of the exhibition in related artwork exercise. The conclusion of this programme in 1996 marked 12 years of collaboration between the JLL and the Royal Academy.

The second programme launched in 1992 was the JLL’s Environmental Project. During its six-year history, this programme was effective in educating and inspiring people within the JLL and the community to improve the local environment. Within the League, volunteers provided information and advice on environmental issues via regular articles in Cues and compiled a chapter entitled “Living Green in London” for the seventh edition of Living in London. In the Colville community, JLL volunteers worked in partnership with local residents as members of a community environmental sub-committee that allowed for the exchange of ideas and progress. Volunteers also organised can recycling drives and “Tidy Up Colville” days, as well as preparing a Tree Map, a legal document integral to establishing Tree Preservation Orders in Colville. The Environmental Project was active between 1992 and 1998.

The JLL was recognised in 1992 as a winner in the Regional Round of the Royal Anniversary Trust’s Challenge for England, highlighting the impact of our community work.


As a result of the success of the Ellesmere House Gazette programme, the JLL initiated a further collaboration with Ellesmere House in 1993. The objective of the programme was to improve the quality of life for residents and provide much-needed support to the staff. JLL volunteers ran a reminiscence programme offering residents the opportunity to build friendships and a stronger sense of self esteem through group reflection on past experiences, established one-on-one relationships with residents, and planned and executed two major social events per year. The programme was active between 1993 and 1996.

In 1993, JLL members voted to adopt a new community focus: the development of the Colville area of Notting Hill. At the time, Colville was one of the most deprived areas in London, and the JLL felt that it could make the greatest impact by concentrating its efforts in this particular neighbourhood. Urban and cultural consultant Gerald Lemos featured JLL in his 1999 book Urban Village, Global City,which focused on the physical and social regeneration of Colville, writing: “The Junior League of London is an example of altruism…women committed to voluntary service…They offer support to enhance the lives and capabilities of residents and to enable them to take an active role in their neighbourhood and future.” Colville remained the primary focus of JLL’s community efforts until 2002 when a new focus was adopted; however, our work in this neighbourhood continues today through programmes such as Learning Club.


Between 1995 and 1999, JLL volunteers provided regular weekly shopping to elderly and disabled residents in the Weybridge area though its Surrey Shoppingprogramme. Volunteers, which included non-JLL members, were assigned to one or two residents for whom they shopped each week.

Also in 1995, the JLL developed the Colville Help Service programme in partnership with Notting Hill Housing Trust. The goal was to provide elderly individuals and those with special needs tailored services including help with errands, household tasks, shopping, or simply visits or conversation partners through flexibly scheduled one-on-one weekly or biweekly helping sessions. The programme was active between 1995 and 2003.

In addition, 1995 saw the kick-off of the Toy Library scheme in partnership with the Tabernacle community centre in Colville. The Toy Library provided a friendly and supportive safe place for parents and caregivers to come with their children to borrow high quality toys, books and videos to enjoy at home. The Toy Library specialised in lending toys to children aged 0-7 that encourage play, interaction with parents, and that were educational as well as fun. In addition, the Toy Library provided a Parent Resource Section with up-to-date books and reference materials on child rearing, early child development and parenting. JLL volunteers also offered workshops and training to encourage parents/caregivers on issues of interest such as Basic First Aid. Over time, the Toy Library expanded its hours to include up to 24 hours per week of service provision, and the programme was successfully transitioned to West London Action for Children in 2002.


In 1996, the JLL Community Research team discovered that Colville Primary School (CPS) could use additional support in reaching its academic goals. After a year of planning, the JLL initiated its Learning Club programme in 1997, providing financial support for teacher-led after-school academic support, weekly one-on-one volunteer-led support for literacy and maths, and a wide range of additional enrichment experiences. This programme is an ongoing initiative of the JLL.

Also in 1996, the JLL delivered its first complement of Holiday Hampers to 100 families in need. Adopted as an official programme by the JLL membership in 1998, Holiday Hampers are now delivered to over 1,000 recipients annually through 14 community partners.

Also in 1996, the JLL launched a programme to support victims of domestic violence in coordination with the North Kensington Women’s Aid Refuge. Initially, JLL volunteers worked with North Kensington Women’s Aid (NKWA) to help the Refuge obtain and establish additional Refuge space. Over time, the programme evolved to provide volunteers to assist women with the practical problems associated with moving into permanent accommodation. JLL volunteers also developed marketing materials for the Refuge, set up a database of potential sources of grant funding for the Refuge, and funded space at the Refuge for women without recourse to public funds. The programme was active between 1996 and 2000.

1999 Responding to urgent community needs, JLL sponsored a major Coat Drive for London’s most needy residents in 1999. Partnering with local businesses and other voluntary groups, JLL distributed 462 coats in the winter of 1999, and continued the project with a Millenium Coat Drive in 2000.
2000 Just in time for the new millennium, the JLL launched its website www.jll.org.uk at midnight on 31 December 2000. The JLL was one of the first Junior Leagues to have its own website, and this continues to serve as a vital communications link for the JLL today.
2001 In 2001, the JLL brought the Silent Witness programme to the UK. Started in Minnesota in 1990 by a group of teachers, writers and artists who wanted to use a combination of arts and education to increase awareness of domestic violence in a visually powerful way, the programme involved creating life-sized silhouettes representing specific women murdered by their partners. The JLL created figures and displayed them in various venues throughout London to highlight the fact that domestic violence affects women without regard to geography or social class. The programme received numerous accolades, including an award from the Mayor of London and a Bronze Medal at the Hampton Court Flower Show in 2003. The programme was successfully transitioned to the office of the Mayor of London in 2004.
2002 In 2002, JLL members voted to change the charity’s community focus from an emphasis on the renewal of the Colville area of Notting Hill to ARTs etc (educating through creativity) as its new community focus, helping children in need reach their potential through access to arts programmes.

As part of the transition to its new community focus, JLL began supplementing the reading and maths portion of its Learning Club programme with artistic enrichment, including programmes such as Funky Feet dance workshops and the provision of badly needed arts supplies.
2003 In 2003, the JLL initiated its TeenArt programme with Holland Park School to enrich the lives of teens at risk of truancy and delinquency through arts-based work-study internships with a number of professional organisations. The programme was adopted by the membership in 2003, launched in 2004, and was active until 2006 when it was transitioned to the new Young Art programme.
2004 In 2004, the JLL undertook a major organisational change, transitioning from an unincorporated association to a Limited Liability Company. The membership also voted to institute a mandatory service commitment, meaning that ALL Active members of the JLL commit to perform a minimum number of hours of service directly in the London community alongside their community work.

Also in 2004, the JLL launched the Life Journeys programme, working with community partners including Park Walk School, the Venture Community Association, and My Generation to deliver arts-based learning workshops to young people in need. Through a variety of media including theatre arts, mosaics and scrapbooking, Life Journeys helped young people from diverse communities explore their identity and build their self esteem and confidence. The programme was active between 2004 and 2009.
The Life Journeys programme was recognised with a grant from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Arts Grant Scheme. The Sea of Faces quilt produced by the Life Journeys committee in coordination with Park Walk Primary School and the Autumn 2005 JLL New Members class won the top prize in the Schools division at the 2006 Festival of Quilts.
In addition, 2004 marked the first year of JLL’s partnership with the English National Ballet School (ENBS), delivering BalletWorks! workshops and visits to a ballet performance to primary school children who might otherwise never get to experience ballet first-hand. During the five years that this project was active, JLL volunteers brought the magic of ballet to over a thousand students at over six different local schools. The project was transitioned back to ENBS during the 2008-9 JLL year.
2005 In 2005, the JLL was nominated for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and also for the Nationwide Award for Voluntary Excellence in recognition of our contributions to the London community.

In 2006, the JLL launched its participation in the AJLI’s Kids in the Kitchen initiative to address the health issues surrounding childhood obesity and poor nutrition. Now an annual project, the programme has helped bring greater awareness of healthy eating and physical fitness habits to nearly a thousand economically disadvantaged children from four different schools.

Also in 2006, the JLL began its collaboration with Rugby Portobello Trust (RPT),providing arts-based workshops and mentoring to the young people supported by RPT through its Young Art programme. Using arts as a tool to engage these economically disadvantaged young people who are making the transition to independent living, JLL volunteers planned and executed workshops exploring diverse media including graffiti art, rap music, hip-hop dance, and film-making. In 2009, JLL members voted to transition the project into the new Running Startprogramme, putting increased emphasis on providing skills that will help the young people at RPT develop their prospects for employment.

2007 In 2007, the JLL was awarded by the Association of Junior Leagues International with an Honourable Mention Award for Vision in recognition of the strength of our strategic plan, which has served as a model for over 100 other Leagues. The JLL also received a £10,000 award from RBS as one of its “Children’s Charities of the Year.”

In 2008, the JLL rolled out its newest fundraiser, London Spree. This programme encourages our supporters to “shop for a cause,” receiving a 20% discount at selected retailers, spas, and restaurants, with all donations from the sale of the card going towards our charitable mission.

Also in 2008, the JLL membership, following a year-long research initiative incorporating an analysis of community needs and member preferences, adopted the elimination of poverty and its effects in London as its new community focus.


In connection with our new community focus, the JLL membership adopted two new community programmes. The first, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, will provide an age-appropriate book a month to children aged 0-5 in some of London’s most deprived neighbourhoods.

The second new programme will be delivered in coordination with Centrepoint and will involve JLL volunteers delivering life skills workshops, mentoring, and other enrichment activities to the homeless young people supported by Centrepoint.


On 9 February 2010, the JLL officially celebrated 25 years as a member of theAssociation of Junior Leagues International (AJLI). The occasion was marked with a weekend of service and celebrations.

Also in 2010, we were proud to receive an Honourable Mention award from AJLI for our recent initiatives in Membership Development.