This week saw the last of our three sessions teaching basic IT skills to tenants at Blackmore house. It has been great fun getting to know Ruby, Prince, Claude and Chetra, and hearing their stories. Thanks, again, to Ray, the centre manager, for her assistance. Hopefully our paths will cross again, as they find new opportunities to develop their digital skills.
In fact, as Blackmore house shares its garden with Stanstead Lodge, there is an easily accessible opportunity for them. We started our regular weekly techy tea sessions at Stanstead Lodge last Friday. These will run every Friday 1-3pm. They are free of charge. As usual, tea, coffee and biscuits are provided.
This week was also the last week that Appian will come to help us at the techy tea clubs. Appian are a global software company providing business management applications to corporations. They recently acquired their thousandth employee. As a way of celebrating this landmark, they decided to offer their employees the opportunity to have some volunteering days where they would give their skills to a volunteering project rather than do their usual work. Jennifer Durina, who was managing the volunteering, told me she spent a long time searching for a suitable organisation to work with before she found us. Very often organisations that could provide opportunities did not seem to understand what Appian were looking for. One river clearance group she contacted asked her if she could send them some of Appian's free software. Unfortunately they did not seem to understand that Appian wanted to send volunteers to work with the local community, not just donate software.
We have had a great experience with Appian. This Monday Appian employees Sean and Michael came to the techy tea session at the Blackmore house, a sheltered housing scheme run by Chislehurst and Sidcup Housing association. Sean showed us a film he had made of a trip up Mount Olympus. The film was of an aerial drone flying round the team at the top of the mountain.
On Friday Siter, Paul, Billy and Ricardo from Appian came to our techy tea club at Stanstead Lodge. Billy helped Ruby with her digital skills, Ricardo and Siter helped Maureen, Graham and Gary find a replacement for Movie Maker to edit the film they are making about the centre. Paul helped out with a new IT club based in SL for people with learning difficulties. It has been a truly collaborative experience, and we have all learned from each other.
This week was Get Online Week. Get Online week is an initiative of The Good Things Foundation, an organisation that seeks to bring people together using computers, and at the same time improve their computer skills. Our Techy Tea Clubs are doing that, so we were keen to get involved. This week, on top of our regular Monday and Tuesday sessions, we ran three extra Techy Tea Clubs. In Blackmore House we did a session with the tenants. This was supported by the excellent volunteers from Appian, Christina, Cindy and Jennifer (their organiser, left). By a lucky coincidence Appian approached us in October looking for somewhere to volunteer, at exactly the time we needed people most.
On Friday we had our first ever session with the dementia group "Forget-me-nots". This group runs every other Friday from 11am-1pm at Stanstead Lodge. I was MC for the digital part of the session, and was somewhat feeling my way. We had a go at playing Kahoot, but it was a bit difficult for all the teams to view the questions without a larger screen. Instead we played Bloop and Bounden. Luckily the forget me nots group were a pretty forgiving bunch, and didn't seem to mind the chopping and changing too much.
Below is a film of one of the Bounden sessions we ran. I am hoping there will be more sessions with Forget me nots, and I will be researching games like Bounden and Blooper to see where we can take this.
At 1pm, still at Stanstead Lodge, we had the first session of our new improved digital drop-in in the IT room. This was well attended, with techy tea students evenly matched with a completely fresh group of Appian helpers, this time with matching blue tee-shirts - Fabian, Achmed, Ryan and Bumika (sorry if I have miss-spelled your name Bumika!).
They were joined by a new group who are running their own digital sessions for people with learning difficulties. I will be completing the set-up of the new ICT suite for them next Friday.
On Monday we had the first of three morning sessions teaching basic IT skills to tenants of Blackmore House on Stanstead Road. The house backs right onto a garden which is owned by Stanstead Lodge, which I have been going to for the last few months to teach Wordpress on a Friday. At least I thought the garden was owned by Stanstead Lodge, but some of the residents of Blackmore House seem to think otherwise. I have heard there are occasionally disputes between representatives of each organisation, mainly centering around the garden and access rights to it. In fact, the back doors of the room we were teaching in at Blackmore House do open right onto the Stanstead Lodge garden. One wonders what Chislehurst and Sidcup Housing Association, the owners of Blackmore House, had in mind building those doors to the garden which could only have given their tenants false hope.
Robert, Melanie (a new volunteer) and I had a good session helping Ruby, Chetra, Claude and Princess develop their skills. As all tenants of Blackmore house are automatically members of Stanstead Lodge, hopefully we will be seeing them at the new improved digital drop in we will be running there on Fridays 1-3pm.
These three sessions are entirely voluntary. I only agreed to do them after a bit of arm-twisting from Lorna Langford Foster, who works for Chislehurst and Sidcup Housing Association. Also, the dates we agreed to happen to coincide with Get Online Week. This all helps with PR. I don't believe techy tea clubs can ever make money. As I have to survive, I am looking into ways that they can be funded. I don't know anything about funding, having always worked in the private sector. However, this week there has been a bit of good news. Lewisham Pensioners Forum have managed to secure some money to support the Monday techy tea club through the Lewisham Central Ward Assembly bidding process on Thursday. This is one of the best ways of trying to make a small amount of money for a good cause in the borough. Groups put their applications forward with the amounts they want included. Some of those groups are approved for the Assembly event. Then the public come and hear the groups give their elevator pitch style speeches about why they should get the money. In the end the public vote. They are allowed as many votes as there are groups, and they can not vote for any group more than once. For a group not to get the funding less than 50% of the votes must go to them. On top of this, I am not convinced that the votes are actually counted. If you examine the process carefully, you can see that the likelihood is that if your group gets through to the assembly, then it likely to secure the funding.
This might seem like a Vladimir Putin-esque style of democratic decision making. However, it is important to remember that these events are designed to generate a positive feeling for people who are working to improve life in the borough. It doesn't help if anyone is left with nothing. The money is already allocated to facilitate local groups, so it has to go somewhere. The residents of Lewisham will benefit. Very few of them are interested in this kind of event. Whenever you go to one you see a lot of familiar faces.
I may be in luck with another of the funding bid events that took place this week. Tim Bradley of the Lewisham Wellbeing Map put forward a bid to the NCDP Area 4 Application event. NCDP stands for Neighbourhood Communities Development Partnerships. It means wards being bunched together in to pool resources. They are part of the process whereby national health concerns direct focus towards local organisations that can promote "wellbeing", which stops people bothering the doctor so much. NCPD Area 4 means Bellingham, Crofton Park, Forest Hill, Perry Vale and Sydenham wards. Catbytes have our office this area. In fact, the NCDP Area 4 Application event was held in Ewart Hall where our office is. Again, there were many familiar faces.
I have been in conversation with Tim Bradley recently about how I could collaborate with him over the Wellbeing Map. Julian Rouse of the Bellingham Community Project, with whom I did a bit of work earlier this year, promoted what the map could do. They got the funding. Watch this space.
On Thursday we did the last of the basic IT skills training for carers for Carers Lewisham. I have enjoyed the time I have spent teaching the carers. It has given me some insight into the difficulties that are faced by people who have responsibility for someone who can't look after themselves. The carers rarely get time for anything once they are in this situation. Generally their IT skills, if they have any, were acquired at an earlier stage than when they were caring.
On the Thursday afternoon session we had an interesting change from the normal subject matter. One of the carers, Patricia, has been wanting help selling on Ebay for a while. She brought in an interesting object to photograph. It was a very delicate set of scales. There was some German writing on the side. The other carer, Eva, was German and was able to translate it for us. The scales came in a box which was made using a kind of plastic whose name we managed to track down using Wikipedia and other Google searches. It was lucite. We looked up lucite jewelry online, and more about the history of plastics from their foundations. It was probably the most engaged group I have ever worked with, and Eva remarked that investigating plastics had really taken her mind off things.
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.
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.
On Wednesday I went to a partnership project called Digital Skills for Work at the Civic Suite in Catford Town Hall. Phoenix Community Housing, Lewisham Homes & Lewisham Council are working in partnership to deliver a sustainable network of intermediaries to support residents test lacking basic digitalskills. Part of the plan has been to employ two "Digital Connectors", who will help people get the kind of skills that can help them find work.
Part of the purpose of the scheme, as it is of the organisations mentioned above, is to create a network of Digital Champions. There were a couple of smaller organisations, like Catbytes, at the event. One example was the New Cross Gate Trust. They are offering IT classes covering a range of topics from the most basic IT skills to using spreadsheets with Excel. I met Jenny from this organisation, who told me about the good work they are doing.
It would be great to draw these organisations together into a shared pool. This way people wanting to develop their IT skills in Lewisham could be directed to the nearest location or the most convenient time possible. However, I am not entirely clear how this new initiative is going to achieve this yet. It's certainly great to network so as to get an idea of what our common goals are. But there doesn't seem to be an easy way for Catbytes to turn our volunteers into digital champions, or to integrate what we are doing into the Lewisham Basic Digital Skills program. Perhaps this will become clearer as we continue to meet and talk
Later on I went to the Family Action Open Recovery Day, held in the Baptist Church Hall in Perry Hill. I'm not sure why the day was called this. However, I'm not sure why quite a lot of events are given the names they are, including some that I have organised. I had my Catbytes stand showing the various Techy Tea clubs I have done. I met the CEO of family action. Even more excitingly, I met Lynval Golding of the Specials. It turns out Lynval is a bit of a campaigner on the issue of mental health. He gave a moving speech, and also let me have a picture of him and me, and Lesley from Family Action. This is my most exciting photo on the site so far, (and also the first which actually has me in it, incidentally). Why is it such a big deal? Don't you remember? Let me remind you....
On Sunday I did a bit of the Catford Arts Trail. I am looking for some pictures to put in the office. I want to establish Catbytes' localist agenda in the office, so local artists would be great. Unfortunately no art is cheap. However, there is a huge range of artists in Catford. Over 100 are represented on the Arts Trail. You can get into some interesting chats in the houses where the art is shown. One of the artists suggested to me that Catford is replacing Telegraph Hill as the artistic hub of Lewisham. The big bay-windowed houses on Telegraph Hill are becoming too expensive.
I've included some pictures of the kinds of things I saw on the trail. The throne to the right is created by Tamara Froud. She does quite expensive commissions for schools - a bit out of my range, however much I would like the throne to sit on. Also quite expensive and pretty weird is Sandra Ackermann in 3 Engleheart Road (an example is shown on the left). I liked her work, but I think some of our visitors might ask for explanations of it. I'm not sure if the answers would be entirely savoury.
I am thinking of trying to get some work by Jen Mason. She has done some work inspired by a trip to Uganda about the "Economics of Happiness". It's basically saying we could live better lives if we we less concerned about money and more concerned about the social activities that make life worth living - a positive message in straitened times. I'm not sure if all Ugandans would agree but then I've never been there, so maybe she knows more than I do about this.