Abbey Community Festival!

We had a fabulous time on Saturday at our September / ‘back-to-school’ festival. This was funded by Camden Council’s Community Festival fund and we put it on in partnership with Henna Asian Women’s Group.

The day kicked off with a Tech Buddies taster session, which was very well-attended. Lots of new faces! Meanwhile all our lovely local stall-holders were setting up in the hall. This included our sewing and crotchet groups, some bric-a-brac / tombola stalls (CTCers raising money for Abbey), a henna artist, Jean’s nail salon and amazing local trader Uzma’s jewellery and accessories stall which I confess to buying a couple of treats from…

Our first performance in the hall was from our favourite band The Elderly Brothers who provided a wonderful backing track as our guests started trickling in, browsing the stalls and getting in line for food from Henna Asian Women’s Group. Which was to die for!

Elsewhere, Zam and Tissy held story and song time for the kids; Maria-Elena ran some gardening and craft workshops in the garden; Chanda and Sinead got selling the raffle tickets and Norman ran a Bridge taster in the foyer. Making use of all the space in the centre! We also had some of our lovely cafe volunteers selling smoothies and snacks in the Reception area.

It was soon starting to feel really buzzy and lively with all the entertainments and treats on offer! Some people went outside to enjoy their meal in the fresh air.

Next it was time to welcome our Mayor of Camden, Cllr Jenny Headlam-Wells, who everyone was excited to hear from. She took to the stage and gave a great speech praising independent charities like Abbey then took the time to chat to some of our centre users and staff.

The CHAPS (our 50+men group) had a great time outside playing dominoes with some new guys. Indoors we had tasters of seated exercise; creative writing; boccia; and taekwondo – just some of the activities on offer at Abbey.

We also had a brilliant performance from the South Sudanese dance troupe to much applause. Abbey staff member Bryony was invited to take part at last minute which was an honour, not sure her dance moves were quite as stylish though…

Another much-enjoyed performance was given by local poet Nelissa, who previously ran the creative writing group at Abbey. She read moving poems on knife crime, mental health and cultural difference. You can listen to her poems on Youtube here.
Nelissa attends Tech Buddies which is where she received support to set up her channel and she now gets a well-deserved larger audience for her work which is great.

Finally the much-anticipated raffle results were announced! There was some fantastic prizes on offer included this gorgeous cake donated by our trustee John and a lovely hamper from Sainsbury’s Kilburn High Rd, for whom we are local charity of the year.

We had a wonderful day and hope all our guests did too. We’d like to say a big thank you again to all our volunteers, stallholders, Henna Asian Women’s Group, Camden Council’s festival fund, our MC Paul, our photographer May, our trustees, Sainsbury’s, all our performers and Oscar’s Den for providing the balloons – an essential part of any festival I’m sure you’ll agree!

Hope to do something similar next year. It’s certainly seen off any end-of-summer blues and got some new faces into the centre too which is always a good thing. Here are some of the lovely comments we received on the day…

“Food was great and a lovely feeling”
“Wonderful, amazing, everyone very friendly”
“Fantastic food, never eaten before like this. Very very tasty thanks a lot”
“Fantastic afternoon, I’m having such a good time… pleasant staff, good food and entertainment, reasonable books and other items… it’s all happening here… topped up with a speech from the Mayor of Camden… can’t ask for more.”

Ping-pong pop-up with Ageing Better in Camden

We had a great time the other week at Ageing Better in Camden’s table tennis pop-up outside Swiss Cottage Library. The idea behind this was to reach out to new people in the community by encouraging passer-bys to have a go. And have a go they did!

Hassan, Dennis, David, Graham and Dorothy from the Abbey table tennis troupe went along to help out and meet the locals. Big thanks to them for being so friendly and getting everyone to have a go – we think we’ll have lots more players at our Monday night sessions (6-8pm) as a result!

Summer creativity at Abbey

In the news recently was the result of the plastic bag levy introduced in 2015. Single use bag sales had fallen by 86% – from 7.6billion nationally to just over 1billion! This is brilliant news for the environment. And our Re-cycle-art group found a way to put their leftover spare plastic bags to use to ensure their longevity and create new colourful ‘bags for life’!

The group (which meets on Tuesdays from 3.30 – 5.30pm if you fancy coming along next time!) knitted their old plastic bags together using crotchet techniques to create these brand new, very unique tote bags. They are fabric-lined so very nice and robust but the plastic means they’ll also be waterproof (very useful given our current weather situation!) Thanks to group member Jean Taylor who was on hand to show everyone how it’s done while our Simone was enjoying a well-deserved break in Brazil. Here’s Jyoti modelling her bag…

In the last couple of months we were also excited to start a new activity as part of our Neighbours2Friends all-ages programme.

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The trend for ‘adult colouring books’ has been booming in recent years and there is actually evidence to suggest that they can aid relaxation and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The group has been going wonderfully so far with new faces every week. Here they are adding their own touches to the rainforest theme! Anyone is welcome to join – just contact Simone on 02076248378 if you’d like more info.

Our latest new creative group at Abbey is going to be a drama group! We’ll be starting a 9-week course on Thursday 27th September so if you’d like to enrol, please contact Laura on 07447 932564. No experience needed – just a sense of fun! We might well end up doing a community performance to round it off… if there’s one thing we like at Abbey, it’s putting on a show!

Summer at Abbey: our June/July so far

We’ve had loads of special guests to Abbey in the past few weeks so here is an update of all the events and activities we’ve been enjoying so far this summer.

We kicked off July with a visit from our local PC, Mick, PCSO Sham and Liz from Trading Standards during our Friday coffee morning. They gave us lots of useful info about doorstep scams and bogus callers, which helped everyone to feel less wary about being alone in the house and having unwelcome guests.

We’ve also had lots of new faces at coffee morning itself which has been lovely. Harriet from Ageing Better in Camden also popped by to hear more about everything we’ve got going on at the centre at the moment.

Sadly we also said farewell to Jenny, our wonderful cook (bottom left pic) at Saturday Cafe, who is leaving to pursue her own social enterprise projects. She also already works full-time (!) so it’s been amazing that she’s been able to bring her creativity, warmth and cooking prowess to the cafe for the first year of the project. Thank you Jenny for all of your hard work. (This means we’re hiring – check it out)

Big thanks to everyone who has been helping to keep our garden lovely during these hot dry weeks. A few new volunteers there too.

We also had volunteers from our local M&S (plus a much-needed £500 donation) to help out in the garden and at Tech Buddies, thanks to Neighbourly. They had a great time with our seasoned gardeners Violet and Maria-Elena showing them the ropes.

Saturdays at Abbey have also been buzzing as always. The amazing Elderly Brothers came to perform for us for the second time, and our Tech Buddies team have been assisting local over 60s with everything from visiting the council website to buying their first smart phone.

And our Saturday cafe volunteers have kept churning out the most delicious things in the kitchen. Look at those meringues (bottom centre)… we really will miss you, Jenny!

Lastly we’d like to thank our local Wates team, who swung by to drop off a £500 cheque the other week towards the costs of our Neighbours2Friends programme. We are very grateful; these are testing times financially and we are needing more funding all the time just to keep the centre running, so it is much appreciated.

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Big thanks to everyone who has visited us, given talks, donated, volunteered so far this summer. We couldn’t do any of this without you!

Stay tuned for more updates about our new Colouring Calm club, Re-cycle-art and our recent bookswap. Until then…

An evening of thank-yous: Volunteer Summer Party!

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We had a beautiful evening last Wednesday when we welcomed around 50 of our volunteers to the centre to celebrate their contribution over the year. We say ‘contribution’ but really it’s so much more than that – without their time and skills, we simply couldn’t run as a centre. They are our engine!

So to keep them interested we made sure we had lots of pimms on offer! Plus cake, elderflower cordial, delicious cheesy bread and Prabhat’s finest pakoras.

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We got out the bubble machine to create a bit of a special summer atmosphere!

We have so many different projects at Abbey now so everyone had a unique volunteering experience to talk about. From chaperoning trips to cooking up miracles in our kitchen, helping kids grow and learn at our creche, to helping older folks with their tech, there’s loads going on and our volunteers make all of it happen.

And everyone had their own reason for volunteering too. I got chatting to just a small sample of our guests and they all told me the best thing about volunteering at Abbey – see the photos on Twitter! 

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After a good chinwag it was time for some speeches and director Lindsay and Over 50s Projects Manager Laura addressed the crowd to thank everyone for their invaluable work. We also made some special announcements for ‘Exceptional Contribution’ – people who have given over 100 hours of their time to Abbey! These amazing people are:

Kidist and Muitan (volunteer at our Children’s Services)
Maria Elena and Violet (our gardening volunteers)
Frank and Yvonne (Kilburn Good Neighbours befrienders)
Kafia (our dedicated Reception volunteer)
Emil and Marcela (our IT whizzes who help at Tech Buddies)
Olufunso (who does valuable data entry work to keep our attendance records up to date)
Maurice (our centre handyman and all-round superstar)
Debbie, Jinnie and Kanchan (cafe geniuses!)

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We also (officially) announced our recent news that our Kilburn Good Neighbours scheme has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.  Hurray!

Then it was time for Abbey’s favourite form of entertainment – a raffle of course! Gavin and Tissy were our callers and there was a fairly even spread of presents around the garden. Our choir teacher Stac did somehow manage to get three, but we think she deserves it!

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Speaking of Stac and the Abbey choir, they were up next to round off the evening with a delightful performance. ‘Your love keeps lifting me higher’ being a highlight!

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Big thanks to the choir – they always add a little something special to our gatherings and practice hard every Wednesday. (6-7.30pm if you’re interested in joining them!)

Thank you to all our volunteers and Trustees for coming, we hope you enjoyed the evening as much as we did! And thanks to May for taking pictures, as always!

Friday is Guy-day: Men’s Afternoons!

The Belsize Room is now a hive of activity on Friday afternoon’s since we started our Men’s Friday activity a few weeks ago. This gives our CHAPS a chance to hang out with each other and welcome in new men from the local community.

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Dominos has become a firm favourite and can get quite competitive with lots of laughs. We have also had the ping-pong tables out and had a visit from a local barber offering £5 cuts. We might also get the boccia kit out or other games, and there’s a chance for the guys to get tech help with their phone or laptop too. We’re also planning to go to the pub soon for a round of darts and a cheeky drink for our regular attendees.

We’re really happy with how it’s gone so far as we’ve been getting between 10 – 12 guys per week including some new faces. If you know any 50+ men who would enjoy coming along to meet some local folks give Gavin a ring on 07505 933617.

 

Co-op Coffee Morning: “Tax, Care and Toy-boys” (!)

We’d like to say a belated thank you to Co-op Estate Planning team who came to give us an informative talk at coffee morning – ‘Tax, Care and Toy-boys’ a few weeks back.

Planning for the future with regards to your will/inheritance isn’t always the easiest or most fun thing to think about so we were glad to have the Co-op come and break it down for us in a friendly and non-intimidating way!

They explained that the ‘care fees cap’ proposed in 2016 is currently failing to materialise, meaning you may end up contributing much more to any care fees you accrue in the longer term. It’s therefore really important to plan and protect what you’ve worked hard for. Without an Enduring or Lasting Power of Attorney in place, a lengthy and pricey court process could await… so the Co-op gave us some good tips on how to prepare for this. You can check out their website for more info. 

All in all a great visit, we were a bit disappointed about the distinct lack of toy-boys at coffee morning though…

Our next coffee morning ‘special’ will be on July 6th, 11am, when we’ll be welcoming our local police team to the Garden Room.  Come and meet your local bobbies, chat about any of your safety concerns and the latest scams affecting us in the area.