What a year it’s been at Millman Street Community Centre. It’s been literally 365 days, during which our members have been entertained by a great variety of singers, dancers, florists, writers, artists and others, and have also been out and about, bringing a little spark of Holborn life to the seaside and, erm, other bits of the city we know as London. In fact, it’s been such a year that it’s worth recalling a few highlights, and in no way an excuse to recycle old articles and photos to fill up an otherwise threadbare blog. So read on, readers. And be prepared for even more splendiferous happenings at Millman Street Centre in 2018…
January marked the first day for Andrew, Millman Street Community Centre’s new Older People’s Coordinator. An almost unimaginable tall fellow, he bears a passing resemblance to film critic Dr Mark Kermode. Some dispute this, but you never see them together, do you? Andrew is a native of Southampton – a “Hampshire boy,” as he put it.
Our CEO, Lucas, also popped into Millman Street in order to ease Andrew’s initiation and integration, and, along with our HCA Administrator Charles, became the first victims of this reporter’s woeful photographic efforts of 2017, emulating the famous triptych from The Frost Report:
January also saw the start of the Millman Street Knitting Circle, hosted by Jane, with help from volunteer Gloria and, latterly, Theresa. Lord knows how many knit one, pearl ones have been, erm, knitted and pearled since then.
On 24th January, Millman Street Community Centre members were each given a gift box by the ‘Haloes’ group kids from St George the Martyr’s Church. Along with Steve and other HCA staff, Jan – who hosts the Hand Pampering workshops at the Centre every Tuesday afternoon – handed out the kids’ gift boxes to our delighted members. They were grateful and some of them surprised by the gifts. David said: “There were biscuits, candles, sweets, pairs of socks, a vest, and a card. It was very nice to get it from them,” he added.
In February, Millman Street Community Centre hosted HCA’s Annual General Meeting. According to those who attended, the speeches were kept mercifully brief, before Holborn Community Association members and staff tucked into the food and drink – including a vegetarian curry – lovingly prepared and served by Ruma, Rose and Saira.
The event was designed as a celebration of HCA’s achievements, hopes for the future and recognition of senior staff (Sue and Richard) leaving, and also welcoming new ones such as Befriending Manager Kate and our new Older People’s Services Manager, Andrew.
The latter spoke of HCA’s “strengthening relationship with Camden Council”; Lucas and Paul apparently talked about HCA’s budget and read from the HCA Annual Report. Sarah said: “Lucas showed a short film about identity.”
This was in fact 1A Art’s Finding Yourself, which was made in association with the nearby Foundling Museum. Around nine minutes long, it featured various vox pops on the streets of London concerned with the theme of identity. It features the Voice of ‘Nobody’ (as portrayed by Duane Louis), with James Ratee as the Voice of ‘Post-It Notes’.
February 28th was, of course Pancake Day, with millions of people tucking into pancakes wherever the tradition is observed. Millman Street Community Centre members were no exception.
“It was good,” said Ivy, adding that it, “Made a change,” to have pancakes. “Twas lovely,” David agreed. As did Helena, who added, laughing: “I miss my mum’s pancakes!”
“It was absolutely glorious!” Pat enthused, adding: “It was lovely!”
In March, Lukas – Holborn Community Association’s CEO – was ambushed after he rushed to Millman Street Centre, ostensibly to deal with a sudden ’emergency.’ However, this was merely a ruse orchestrated by Saira to lure him here for a surprise – for it was his birthday. HCA Members and staff signed a birthday card, sang an appropriate song (you know which one: it wasn’t either of the ones by Altered Images or Stevie Wonder, respectively), and a chocolate cake was rustled up at short notice and presented to him. Lukas himself cut the cake and sportingly ensured that our members each had a slice before tucking in himself.
April, and our friends at St George the Martyr’s Church in Queen Square once again provided Millman Street Community Centre members with a tea party.
“It was very nice,” Ivy said. She went on to recall how she and John, the vicar, had “talked about old times. Like when he visited me when I was in hospital.”
“They’re all really nice people,” she added. “There were some nice flowers given to us. And home made cakes, sausage rolls and sandwiches.”
Queenie said: “It was a laugh. No matter where we go, it’s a laugh!”
April also saw Millman Street Community Centre host the first Floristry Design Workshop (later known simply as Flower Arranging). Run by Master Florist and RHS Silver Medallist Peter Bodnar of the Working Man’s College, with help from Steven, an X Factor contestant and vocalist in a choir, these workshops have proved abidingly popular with our members.
Also in April, Millman Street Community Centre hosted the first taster workshop by RADA’s Elders Company. The tutor, Ingrid, was assisted by Diana and Jean. In that first session, our members were taught warming-up exercises, and then the RADA actors read lines from Anthony And Cleopatra (a 17th century play by some bloke called William Shakespeare, apparently). Our members each recited a line from the play, culled from a speech by Domitius Enobarus, and the thesps explained what each line meant in modern parlance. To this reporter’s great dismay, no one could recall their explanation of the couplet “The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne/Burned on the water: the poop was beaten gold…”
May was Stroke Awareness Month. People from the Stroke Awareness campaign came to Millman Street Community Centre to give a talk to HCA members.
May also saw us say a fond farewell to Gudrun, who returned to her native Austria. Her Comedy Improv workshops had been a feature at the Centre for two years. During the side-splitting sessions, Gudrun would typically give members a subject and ask them to improvise, changing to different stories as they went along or make up scenarios on the spot. The workshops were also quite good exercise, with a fair bit of walking around. And, of course, laughter has long been said to be the best medicine.
In June, Millman Street Community Centre held its annual Open Day. Your HCA hack arrived at the Centre to a hubbub of preparations, as garments both vintage and new were put on clothes rails, the buffet was being stocked with delicious grub, weary hands awaited pampering, flowers were arranged, and prizes for the raffle were sourced. Leaflets were also being displayed, arts were being crafted and volunteers arrived to give a hand as our members awaited the official opening at 11am. This reporter could see that all was going well, and that his offer to help would only ensure a fiasco, so he sipped tea and took photos in his usual cack-handed manner, and in no way sunned himself in the Millman Street garden as others toiled inside the centre…
There were a number of people from the Get Into Learning community initiative from the Working Men’s College (WMC), which, via Camden Council, had offered HCA members various workshops since March. Marcia from WMC explained that the community projects were free for any Camden resident over 19. These included sewing, knitting, arts and crafts and Maths and English courses. Co-ordinator Marcia’s team also included Stacey, Viola, Jean, Anastasia, Patricia, Hasina and Tracey. They were busy all day massaging, nail-painting, and arts and crafting our members.
Also in June, Millman Street Centre members David, Janice, George, Helena and Margaret went to a workshop at Liverpool Street, hosted by the arts charity CREATE . There, they created some pottery and enjoyed lunch. It was the first of several such creative workshops at CREATE.
On July 1st, Holborn Community Association once again participated in the annual Queen Square Fair [QSF]. A stone’s throw from both Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Mary Ward Centre, the square was abuzz with stalls, music and other forms of entertainment, with locals and newcomers enjoying the atmosphere on a lovely sunny day.
It was the first QSF for our Older People’s Services, Andrew. He manned one of our stalls, ably assisted by Ruma, Hanna and volunteer Gloria. They sold knitwear, plants and bric-a-brac, with Ruma providing henna tattoos. Not far away, another HCA stall was run by Pilar and Bridie, who sold jewelry and were later joined by Gina. Meanwhile, the HCA leaflet and information stall was looked after by Hanif, Charles and caretaker John. The latter knew a fair few passers-by, who stopped to chat, and the trio braved a wasp attack and manfully prevented irregular breezes from blowing the leaflets away. Elsewhere, Millman Street’s knitting guru, Jane, was helping out on another bric-a-brac stall. She was pleased to have sold what she considered to be a “hideous” ornament. Still, one person’s garbage is another’s goldmine…
A few familiar faces popped along to give their support, including Paul, Head of Operations at Bedford House, along with his wife and nipper. Our CEO, Lukas, also turned up to support our staff and volunteers.
Later in July, Matthew Ryder – the Deputy Mayor for Social integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement – paid a visit to Millman Street Community Centre. He talked about Digital Wisdom, a project funded by Team London, which funds various volunteering projects in the capital. Deputy Ryder was accompanied by Dominic Pinkney, the Chief Executive from Camden’s Volunteer Centre.
Also in July, Festival In A Box sent a jazz band to perform at Millman Street Community Centre, the first of three sessions on successive Fridays. This reporter faced an arduous task finding out the name of said band. But “dogged determination and good old fashioned journalistic integrity” [it says here] finally revealed that the band, erm, didn’t have a name.
July also saw HCA’s Befriending Manager, Kate, along with our Bangladeshi Befriending Worker, Hanif, attend the 2017 Camden Mela at Coram’s Fields. They shared a table with colleagues from Camden Carers’ Centre, promoting HCA volunteering opportunities and services across all three HCA Centres.
In August, Millman Street Community Centre members were treated to the first of three music and singing workshops, courtesy of Stac, one of the Sugar Sisters, who performed at the Centre for our members last Christmas – and indeed this Christmas.
The first session featured Stac at the piano, singing along with our members. Among the tunes performed were Que Sera, Sera, Don’t Fence Me In, That’s Amore, Dream A Little Dream of Me, Only Fools Rush In and – in honour of Ann’s 90th birthday – a stirring rendition of Happy Birthday To You.
Also in August, Millman Street Community Centre members embarked on a day trip to Herne Bay. Situated on the North Kent coast, around 65 miles from Holborn, with views of the Isle of Sheppey and possibly a glimpse of Southend, it was Herne Bay’s first experience of HCA’s day-tripping hordes. The town seems to have survived our onslaught. Just. At least, none of our lot were banned from going there again…
In late August, Millman Street Community Centre members enjoyed the first of several Creative Writing workshops, hosted by Chantal Da Silva – a proper journalist. Chantal works for The Independent newspaper, which is now only available online. A Canadian, she said she “Always loved London” and is “British through my father”. She worked in television back in Canada, has a Masters degree in Journalism, and is now a sub-editor and news and features writer.
Giving her time to Holborn Community Association on a voluntary basis, Chantal was “self-motivated” to offer her services to Millman Street Community Centre (as opposed to being sent here as cruel punishment), wanting to put something back into the local community.
In September, Millman Street Centre hosted the first of six Bollywood Dancing workshops. These were be run by Akademi, a charity based in Belsize Park. There were also sessions at Bedford House, as part of the Ballet and Creative Movement workshops. According to its website: “Akademi creates extraordinary experiences for audiences across the UK and beyond. Our performances embrace the rich diversity of classical, contemporary and popular South Asian dance styles.”
September was also the month in which Millman Street Community Centre members embarked on another expedition to the world-famous Kew Gardens. A couple of years has passed since the last jaunt there, so the fuss had, hopefully, died down. A bit. Mainly because this time, your HCA hack didn’t go along…
There was also new workshop at Millman Street Community Centre in September. It was a Photography Workshop, run by Erica from the Mary Ward Centre. Cameras and iPads were used by our members.
On Thursday, 28th September, Bedford House was the venue for the leaving party thrown for Holborn Community Association’s outgoing CEO, Lukas (nè Lucas) Lehmann. After five years at the helm, he returned to his native Germany, to work as CEO of Street Paper, a kind of German version of The Big Issue.
The party was organised by Saira, with help from catering staff Hannah and Shamin, who put on a lovely spread. The highlight, of course, was a marvellous cake.
HCA’s new CEO, Christina Meacham, also made a speech prior to taking over from Lukas.
In October, our friends from FareShare visited Millman Street Community Centre for a photoshoot, in association with Tesco, from whom much of the foodstuffs donated to HCA comes.
FareShare’s Press Officer, Lisa, along with PR Manager Jen and Jade, representing Tesco, selected some of our members to be the faces of FareShare’s annual Food Collection Campaign. The aim, Lisa said, is to “Provide the annual in-store food collection that asks customers to donate dry food [ambient long-life food], such as beans, rice and pasta.”
A freelance photographer, Ben Stevens, also came along to take many, many photographs of our members and staff, including Older People’s Services Manager Andrew and volunteer Gloria, Ruma from our catering staff, and also Ivy, a longstanding Millman Street member.
October was also the Bloomsbury Festival and Camden Kala. Our friends at Akademi South Asian Dance, who have given workshops at Millman Street Centre and latterly at Bedford House, participated, and some of our members featured, including Shonni and David.
October, of course, was also Halloween. At Millman Street Community Centre, there seems to have been some kind of celebration, with pumpkins, etc, and photographic ‘evidence’ (ahem) of a ghost. There was also possibly* a soundtrack playing, possibly* featuring The Monster Mash by Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers, Halloween by the Dead Kennedys, and the theme to the film Halloween (1978), composed by its director, John Carpenter [* didn’t happen].
Halloween was also the theme when Millman Street Community Centre members once again showed their creative side by attending another Flower Arranging workshop hosted by our friend, Master Florist Peter. He brought in a few seasonally pertinent items – mini-pumpkins, masks, spiders etc – to compliment his arrangement. Peter also brought in plants called ‘Bunny Ears’ and ‘Leather Leaf,’and also a plant called ‘Witches Hair’.
November, and several Millman Street Community Centre members made the short journey to 1A Arts for a Pottery workshop, hosted by Colleen. Sevilla, George, Anne, Tony and Rose were among those who participated.
They were joined by HCA’s Activities Co-ordinator, Carmen, a couple of work experience students, and Sarah, who took some great photos of our members’ creations.
Our members made moulded plates and bowls, and, in George’s case, a dinosaur, all to their own designs.
There was also a Silk Painting workshop in November, hosted by Joanne from Kingsway College. The artworks which were created by our members varied in style and tone, but, hey, an outpouring of creativity is an outpouring of creativity and none the worse for that. Much more than this, your HCA reporter couldn’t find out. For a hack with a threadbare blog article to plump out, all he can recall offhand is that sericulture is the process by which silk is made, which inspired possibly the only song ever written about the subject: the Human League’s Being Boiled, originally released in 1978 and taking a mere four years to become a chart hit….
To mark Remembrance Day, Millman Street Community Centre member Lilly went to Westminster Abbey, to put a cross down for a missing soldier of the Great War.
Also in November, Millman Street Community Centre members enjoyed a Seated Yoga workshop, hosted by Shirley. Among those who took part were Noreen, Helena, George, Ivy, Sevilla, Edna, Queenie, volunteer Pat and her son, Steve.
In December, the festive season got underway at Millman Street Centre. It was the venue for the Millman Street Singers’ Christmas Show. Among those taking part were members Norman, Mulegetta, John, Ivy, Gloria, Helena, Rose, Queenie, and volunteer Pat.
The event was hosted by Stac, our friend from The Sugar Sisters (who also performed at the Centre on 21st December). She played piano and led the singing. Among the festive tunes performed were When A Child Is Born, made famous by Johnny Mathis. There were also renditions of Jingle Bells, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Away In A Manger and Silent Night.
December also saw the return of Mrs H and the Singalong Band to Millman Street Community Centre for three Christmas shows. Before an audience of HCA members, staff, local nippers and their mums, the band performed stirring versions of established favourites, such as The Train Song, Throw a Ball, Dance Away With Me, Hello Hello and Fishes in the Sea. They also played a couple of new tunes – Starlight Dance and You Can Do That – as well as Little Nut Tree, an old English folk song, but new to their set.
Since their last visit, the band have toured England, playing at the National Theatre River Stage, Camp Bestival in Dorset, Lattitude in Suffolk and Beautiful Days in Devon. Mrs H and Ali also revealed that there is a possibility of them touring China in 2018.
Also in December, Bedford House was the venue for a Festive Luncheon thrown for HCA’s volunteers. The event was organised by Saira, and there was a speech by our CEO, Christina, thanking our volunteers for all their hard work during 2017. Millman Street Centre’s Befriending Organiser, Kate, attended, along with volunteers Sam, Gloria, Kamal, Theresa and Bridie.
In the run-in to Christmas, Millman Street Centre members also enjoyed a Christmas Party, with music by jazz band Ronnie Scott’s Rejects. Former Older Peoples’ Manager Sue turned up to see old friends, current Manager Andrew was observed “cutting a rug” as the young people say (or at least they did, circa 1926), and our members enjoyed a good old knees-up (health of said patellas permitting). There was food, glorious food; drink, Christmas crackers, tinsel a-plenty and a fully festive atmosphere.
Also this year, the Sugar Sisters‘ Heather also hosted Singing workshops, Active Minds made several visits, as did the ladies from the Wallace Collection. Andrew’s wife Joss joined our volunteers, there were clothing parties, various members’ and staff birthdays were celebrated, with a selection of lovely cakes, and various other activities took place, too numerous to mention [unless this Review of the Year had been done properly. Which it hasn’t]. It only remains for a slideshow to pick random snaps of 2017:
Holborn Community Association would like to thank everyone who performed, hosted workshops, volunteered or otherwise entertained, taught or helped our members at Millman Street Community Centre during 2017. We wish everyone a fantastic 2018.
Photos: various; Report: Notes Smudger