Think modern society turns its back on the community? Think again. Fresh from a winner at the 3.10 at Chepstow, 853‘s special correspondent and turf investment advisor MERCURY MAN has found good news in New Eltham…
PSSST! I want this one to be a complete surprise. Not only to you but to the people I’m about to praise to the rafters.
That actually means I won’t be doing any research, any investigating, any interviews… (Any work of any kind, in other words – Ed).
No, yes – because, in all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever stumbled upon something that speaks so wonderfully for itself, certainly not since Shot of Love.
It’s about a community group of people who first got together to improve the world in New Eltham back in 1996.
Now, we’re all a little bit ashamed of the petty prejudices that hide somewhere in our flawed souls and, I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never really associated New Eltham with anything approaching community zeal.
New Eltham, in my lazy mind was all to do with everything sleepy. Sleepy people, sleepy Tory voters, sleepy shops, sleepy trees, even a sleepy station.
But, thankfully if a little slowly at times (Oh, get on with it – Ed), we live and learn. This community group – quietly, almost sleepily – set about providing services and facilities that soon earned them MBEs, BEMs, pats on the back and numerous other forms of approbation.
To this day, 22 years later, they’re still at it as if none of the ills of the world could possibly interfere with the bonhomie flowing around Footscray, Avery Hill and Southwood roads, SE9.
I stumbled upon them by looking over Darryl’s shoulder at a thing on his computer called Twitter (what?! – Ed). Funny name if you ask me but there, large as life, was a “Tweet” about this group lobbing three hundred quid’s worth of food to the Greenwich Foodbank.
What? Helping the poor? In New Eltham? Does Theresa know? Boris?
Anyway, that did it for me. MM had to look into it and join in the cheering.
I’m not going to let on who they are because I’ve got this childlike (childish, more like – Ed) joy of saving the best till last. I’ll also be sending this missive to the group involved itself once it’s published, and hoping they receive it well.
So… let me tell you a little of their history and what exactly they do.
At first, the community group was run completely by volunteers.
They got rate relief for the building they run but no grants from Greenwich Council. In 2001 they took on a co-ordinator to manage the buzzing place from day to day.
Dosh? They raise it by hiring their rooms to event organisers.
Talks and events include the Darwins of Downe; World War I and The Ordinary Soldier; Summer Gardening; The Job of A Laughtime (pun intended); tea dances, quizzes, tea dance quizzes,
cream teas; and – last but not least – Jahson Sings Motown.
Not surprisingly, these community crusaders went on to win grants from Fastforward and Greenwich Neighbourhood Renewal to help 12 locals brush up on their IT and interview skills to go for jobs. Zero hours? No, proper jobs.
Awards For All stumped up the cash for two short mat bowls mats and equipment. Then Partners In Time coughed up cash to improve facilities for young and elderly families. Well, how could you refuse this mob?
Regular activities? Well – deep breath – on Mondays there’s Pilates (9.30-10.30am and 6-6.50pm; U3A painting group from 10-noon and 2-4pm; adult table tennis 11.30-1.30pm; and belly dancing from 7.15-8.30pm. On Tuesdays the coffee shop is open from 10.30-1pm; short mat bowls from 10.30-12.30pm and 2-4pm; taekwondo from 5-7pm; and line dancing from 7.30-9pm. On Wednesdays there’s movement and dance for over 50s from 9.45-11.15am; adult table tennis from 10.30-12.30pm; line dancing from 2-3pm; Katz Eyes (whatever they are) from 3.45-8.30pm (term time only); and Slimming World from 7-pm. On Thursdays the coffee shop is open from 10.30am-1pm; short mat bowls from 10.30am-12.30pm; Yoga from 1.30-3pm; Adult table tennis from 3.30-5.30pm; Taekwondo from 6-7pm; and bingo from 7.30- 9.15pm (every other week). On Fridays there’s Pilates from 9.30- 10.30am; the Friday Social Club from 1.45-3.30pm (every other week); Crafty Crafters from 2-4pm; and Pilates ‘Enjoy Good Lifestyle’ from 7-8pm.
And if you want to complain about not having anything to do in New Eltham, there are councillor surgeries on the first and fourth Saturday of each month from 10-11am.
So there you have it, one of the jewels of Greenwich borough society (“There’s no such thing as society” – M. Thatcher, 1987) tirelessly spreading warmth and bonhomie around New Eltham. No wonder Mrs Evelyn Green – who also works for the Sunshine Club in the area – was made an MBE in 2009 and coffee shop supremo Mrs Anne Read a BEM in 2013.
Can you picture Mrs Evelyn Green or Mrs Anne Read? In my head they look nothing like Angela Davis or Vanessa Redgrave (who was born in Greenwich, if not SE9).
But I see them without meeting them as revolutionaries of our time. Indeed, my forthcoming book, The Grapes of ROTH (Revolutionaries Of The Heart), covers this wide-ranging subject.
Some of you will have guessed by now that I’m talking about C.A.N.E. (the Community Association of New Eltham), based in New Eltham Library. For even more information you can call Sue Killick on 020 8850 7122. And more volunteers are always required, especially for the coffee shop, so please call Sue between 9.30am and 2pm any weekday except Wednesday (email cane.sue[at]hotmail.co.uk ).
Forgive me, Sue, for getting one of my oppo’s to give you a call to fix up some pix for this piece under fleetingly false pretences (Darryl insisted). I just hope everyone takes it in the right spirit. I’m just a big kid really.
One day soon, minus the hat and the shadow on my face, I’ll pop in to demonstrate my bowls and table tennis skills. God bless, MM.
Got a story or a tip for Mercury Man? Drop him a line at mercuryman.853[at]gmail.com or leave a comment below.
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