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News 04 August 2017 l Community

Trailblazing in community wellbeing: Friends of Woodberry Down and Hanover

Tucked away a few metres from the National Trust’s Woodberry Wetlands nature reserve sits Newnton Close. This Hanover Extra Care Housing estate buzzes with regular weekly events attended by a vibrant community of older people.

Newton Close is located close to Woodberry Down Estate - one of the biggest council estates in the UK. This, and the estate's spacious lounge area and kitchen, make it the ideal venue for hosting get-togethers on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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The coffee mornings are the result of a long-term partnership between Friends of Woodberry Down (FOWD) and Hanover. The activities are aimed at reducing social isolation and forging friendships among older people. Participants enjoy singing, listening to music, birthday celebrations, exercise, knitting, playing cards and dominoes, or simply catching up with one another over refreshments and sandwiches.

Uduak Inko-Tariah, Support Worker for Hanover, said: ‘When I first came to Newnton Close in 2014, I set about finding out what types of activities were available for residents. I heard that Amanda Inniss had been here previously, organising singing sessions. Everyone liked her so much and residents subsequently asked her to come back on a regular basis.’

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FOWD's focus is all about working for the wellbeing of people aged 50 and over. The organisation survives on the huge commitment and dedication of a small group of volunteers. They constantly go above and beyond to enrich the lives of older people at many different locations throughout Hackney.

Amanda, FOWD’s Chair, said: ‘I began as a volunteer, offering singing sessions for older people. The then Chair, Erica Dobbs, had such a strong vision for FOWD. When she sadly passed away in 2015, I was asked to run for the position of Chair and to follow in her footsteps in the delivery of that vision. Tracey Boothe was nominated and voted Treasurer and together we manage the weekly activities.

‘Uduak and Hanover are a tremendous support to FOWD. We really appreciate all that they are doing.’

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With no access to any regular sources of funding, FOWD work extremely hard on fundraising and grants. They raise money through members’ subscriptions and raffles. They have also secured grants from sources such as Waitrose Community Matters, Hackney CVS, Evening Standard Dispossessed Fund, Manor House Development Trust, Hackney Council, Genesis Housing, and donations of food from the local Tesco and Pret A Manger.

‘We strongly believe in the benefits of connecting older people through enjoyable activities. This is what drives us constantly to keep FOWD going,’ said Amanda.

The coffee mornings and other events organised by FOWD and Hanover show the benefits of bringing together Hanover residents and their peers in the local community. The nearby Woodberry Down estate covers a huge 64-acre site. It dates back to the 1930s when London County Council (LCC) compulsorily purchased the land. By 1962 construction was complete and today as a long-established estate it has a high number of older people.

Pam, a resident from the local area who comes in regularly for the coffee mornings, said: ‘I really like living in this part of Hackney. There’s lots to do and the transport links are excellent.’

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For those who have had the good fortune to attend the Newnton Close events, one of the highlights is the singing sessions. Led by Amanda and FOWD Treasurer, Tracey Boothe, as part of their Musical Memories initiative, residents get to sing along to all their old favourites dating back to the 1940s.

Additionally, this summer has seen two big events organised by FOWD at Newnton Close. On 13 June a fundraising event for the Alzheimer Society’s Cupcake Day included a talk about Dementia Friends and a visit by local schoolchildren from Woodberry Down Primary School. The children sold cakes and chatted with residents.

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On 25 July FOWD hosted The Big Lunch, funded via a grant provided by Hackney Council. 40 attendees enjoyed a delicious lunch prepared by volunteers, alongside all the usual activities of a FOWD coffee morning.

‘FOWD have made such a massive difference here,’ said Uduak. ‘Every week people bring more and more of their friends along. FOWD now have 70 signed-up members, with 40 people attending on Tuesdays and 25 people on Fridays.'

Contact points

Friends of Woodberry Down
Amanda Inniss Tel 0787 634 5457
Tracey Boothe Tel 0785 232 8993
Twitter: @FriendsofWD

Information sources

Hidden London