Reminiscence is a regular Workshop activity which Millman Street Centre members have enjoyed for some time. The workshop is run by Rochelle, under the auspices of the Adult Community Learning Budget, via Westminster Kingsway College.
The Reminiscence Workshop is concerned with keeping the mind active and supple by prompting memories, centred around a particular theme each week. This is achieved by showing members clips of archive film and TV footage, playing them theme tunes, songs and radio recordings and discussing their memories of them.
This week’s theme was the Emergency Services. Members were played the theme tunes of and shown clips of long-running police TV dramas such as Z Cars (see image above) and Dixon of Dock Green. The star of the latter, Jack Warner, also featured in the Workers’ Playtime radio show of the 1940s. Maria recalled how radio shows were played in factories during and post-war in order to help alleviate the monotony of repetitive tasks and boost productivity.
George explained how, in the 1950s, he had assembled his own television set from a box of parts he had bought. A perhaps daunting task for many, though George was a highly accomplished engineer. He also remembered having seen “one of the first TV sets” whilst at college, circa 1948. With these early TV sets, “You could tune into French, German and other European stations,” he recalled, noting that this can’t be done nowadays without recourse to satellite TV.
Fred and Olive never had a television, but recalled listening to short-wave radio broadcasts, from the war years onward. Maria remembers having a coin-operated TV set: “They would come round and empty it, and you had to prove you had a TV licence.”
Members all recalled Simon Templar, the hero of The Saint TV show, especially its distinctive theme tune.
With Great Ormond Street just up the road, the evolution of types of ambulances was also discussed, and also changing attitudes to hospitals and homeopathy. Queen’s Square was once home to the Italian Hospital, Maria explained. “My mother would send us to give money to the charity,” she said.
On the subject of health, Fred recalled having seen the streets being disinfected to safeguard against disease in the last days of carts, horses and their roadside deposits.
Looking ahead, in future workshops members will be asked to write down their memories of a particular theme on various cards, shaped like leaves, maple trees, apples and pears, which will then be displayed in the centre on a cardboard tree, to be constructed by Carmen, the Arts Activities worker.