fan danceOn Wednesday I went to Lewisham Pensioners' Day. This is the biggest annual event organised by the Lewisham Pensioners' Forum. It is held every year at the Broadway Theatre in Catford.

The format of events was first a series of talks presented by notable people, then a break, and then some entertainment. This year the speakers were Damien Egan, the new Mayor of Lewisham,  Professor Gillian Manthorpe of Kings College, and Marion Watson, who is a lay reader at St Mary's Ladywell “Therapeutic Garden Project”. 

Professor Gillian Manthorpe talked about her research into loneliness, which is a hot topic at the moment. There is even a Radio 4 documentary about it currently running  The series is based on a survey which, interestingly, finds that younger people are more likely to be lonely than older people, contrary to received opinion on this topic. Part of the reason for why this is surprising to us is that we often associate loneliness with isolation, when in fact many people who feel lonely are not physically impaired, and may in fact have a lot of social interaction in their life. 

Marion Watson talked about the Therapeutic Garden that has been created by staff and volunteers at St Mary's Church in collaboration with Sydenham Gardens. This is a beautiful and very peaceful spot by St Mary's church. Gardening has been shown to have very powerful therapeutic effects, as the workers at Sydenham Gardens - a gardening based mental health charity - know well.

The second half of the event included a band formed out of the Ukelele club that practices at St Mauritius House during the Monday Project, some Spanish traditional dancing which featured very impressive foot-stomping, the socialist folk singer Jim Radford, and the annual turn of Lewisham Pensioners' Forum's chair, Bridget Sam-Bailey, which this year received a standing ovation for her singing.

Bridget Sam Bailey

In a similar vein, on Sunday I went to Silver Sunday, a day of fun for the elderly organised by the Positive Ageing Council. This included a variety of events all happening at the Deptford Lounge. I won a Positive Ageing Council branded umbrella in a quiz. I was particularly proud to have known of the Brockley-born Mercury Prize nominee Novellist, the answer to a question that completely stumped the other old fogies. In fact, I hate to name-drop, but I actually met him last month at the memorial service for Shaquan Fearon, a young man who was tragically stabbed to death in the Brockley area in 2015. He is a very polite and personable fellow in real life. Not like comes across in Lewisham Mcdeez, the song that first drew him to my attention. I don't know what he made of me introducing myself as a trustee of the centre and telling him how much I admired this work. I may not fit the profile of his typical fans. Nevertheless, I think Lewisham McDeez is the greatest tribute to Lewisham High Street's McDonalds. Although I warm even more to the reference to Percy Ingle, my favourite place to get custard tarts. One day I will meet Dee Jillz and thank him for this as well.

By Damian Griffiths at 7 Oct 2018, 08:27 AM



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