Elderly writing group on Islington estate adjusting to life in coronavirus lockdown

Mary Chirou, Ngoma (with back to camera), Teresa Hayes and Diana Philips.

Mary Chirou, Ngoma (with back to camera), Teresa Hayes and Diana Philips. - Credit: Archant

A writing group set up to support isolated elderly people on an Archway estate is adjusting to life in the lockdown age.

The Islington Mature Writers Group, launched in 2017 as part of the Elthorne Pride programme on the Elthorne Estate, aims to bring together older people from different social and cultural backgrounds and help them develop their storytelling.

Some members used to write but life got in the way, others had never had a go. But they enjoyed it so much that when Elthorne Pride funding dried up they were keen for it to continue.

Writer and social activist Ngoma Bishop now hosts the group voluntarily, and up until last month they would meet at different locations in the area and share their stories.

Ngoma said the group not being able to meet physically has not dampened their spirits. The three core members, Teresa Hayes, Mary Chirou and Tim Bleach, are now on the phone to each other regularly to give each other feedback and put the world to rights.

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“Theresa rings me constantly,” joked Ngoma. “And Tim and Theresa are close. They live near to each other but are now self-isolating so can’t go round.

“But they are still in touch and writing. When we started the group Theresa and Tim were a bit concerned about reading their work but after a few weeks their confidence grew and their latent artistic abilities came through.”

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“There are some excellent writers doing it who just needed a bit of encouragement,” said Tim, of Duncombe Road. “And there are those of us who aren’t quite as good as we think we are and those who think they aren’t that good but actually are.

“It’s an opportunity to meet and keep in touch with each other. People use creativity as a way to socialise.”

Late in Life by Tim Bleach, 76

Late in life comes early for frightened children

The sullen, resentful shrubs in the stubborn shrubbery,

Frail, fretful bushes in timorous paranoid corners,

Tall menacing oak trees as English as Sunday scripture,

Leaves squeezed until dry as a field in late August

Respectable citizens wander down pallid streets

Notice how houses and hedgerows said by unobserved

Their fate undeserved through day after day of repeats.

The others glide on their glistening slides of December

Letting go of their bodies and yielding to rhythms of ice,

In concert with time and space in their winter playtime

The girls with their skipping ropes chanting the days away

The lads ride their luck, getting away with murder,

Fists on the football field, muddy and truly plastered,

Telling the stupid old ref to go f**k himself;

What were you watching, you specsaving bottle b*****d?

Late in life, O late in the evergreen evenings

When the summer sun has retired to the whispering suburbs,

Reflective spirits at ease with all tattered experience

May sip the old wine from the welcome remains of the day,

Evoke all the shards of the great everlasting circle,

(What goes around comes around anyway somehow or other),

Suggesting peace with the motion of sundials and stars,

The lay lines of energy sown by the great earth mother.

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