Music hall revived as Highbury day centre seeks to boost numbers

PUBLISHED: 08:00 17 July 2011

From left: Norman Divall, Mike Francis, Roz Nelson, Paul Sadler, June Brown and Joyce Hindess

From left: Norman Divall, Mike Francis, Roz Nelson, Paul Sadler, June Brown and Joyce Hindess


The music hall tradition was brought back to life this week in a bid to boost numbers at a struggling day centre for older people.

Six performers aged 60 to 80 brought in the crowds for Old Time Music Hall, a show of song and dance at the Sotheby Mews Day Centre in Sotheby Mews, Highbury.

The audience enjoyed signature music hall songs such as I’m Henery the Eighth I Am and Alice Blue Gown as the Victorian tradition was revived in carnival costumes.

David Oliver, 69, who volunteers at Sotheby Mews and organised the event, said: “Quite a few pensioners were unaware that the centre is still going since the change of management earlier this year. Old Time Music Hall was put on to remind people it’s still up and running, and that older people from the community are always welcome. Everyone really enjoyed themselves.”

Each act harked back to a bygone era and the performers, who were from the Mary Ward Centre in Bloomsbury, engaged with the audience, calling for them to sing along. In between the performances, jokes about aging and memory were told.

Henry Bourner, chairman of the Sotheby Mews Management Committee, said: “Hopefully events like this will help to raise our numbers. Sotheby Mews would really benefit from more regular attendance and any new club members who would be interested in our vast array of weekly activities.”

Sotheby Mews had been threatened with closure in April as part of Islington Council’s £52million package of cuts – but was kept alive after a hard-fought campaign from devastated users forced councillors into a last-minute U-turn. The move saw Highbury Roundhouse take over the running from Age Concern on a reduced grant.

Mr Bourner added: “Since the Highbury Roundhouse took over from Age Concern there has been a decline in members.”

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