Hackney elders celebrated in a series of short films

PICTURED: Gubsie Agolia-Aspinall and Newton Dunbar

A HACKNEY-based organisation has launched a series of short films and a commemorative booklet to highlight the borough’s diverse communities.

Connect Hackney – an organisation which aims to improve the wellbeing of Hackney residents aged 50 and over – teamed up with local elders, encouraging them to their stories about love, work, change, prejudice, loneliness, pride and resilience.

Among the elders featured in the project is Harold Rubin, 92, and originally from New York, who has been a Hackney resident since 1970. Reflecting on a life lived to the full including a career as an interior and architectural designer, art gallery owner and part time journalist, he said: “You can do quite a lot if you start at 17 and reach 92.” Remembering his childhood in the Bronx he continued: “I experienced some pretty awful things as a child which is unfortunately what one is seeing here now – with attacking people and being abusive and insulting.”

Meanwhile, Anita Ceesay from Senegal, who worked as a midwife at Homerton Hospital for 26 years commented: “Hackney is a wonderful place to grow old. I’ve grown old here and I’m still growing old. I’m British now, I’m a Hackney girl… and here is home.

Connect Hackney is a six-year programme managed by Hackney CVS, which tackles loneliness and isolation amongst people aged 50 and over. One way they are tackling isolation is by providing more opportunities for older people to play an active role within their community, showcasing the valuable contributions they make, which can all too often be overlooked.

By sharing their stories, they hope older people can be seen for the full person they are, not just who they may appear to be today, and be valued, respected, and more able to lead more fulfilling lives. 

Tony Wong, Programme Director for Connect Hackney, said: “The stories featured in the commemorative booklet and short films, provide an opportunity for the voices of the people behind each story to be heard, both now and for generations to come. The more we understand about each other, the more opportunities we create for barriers to be broken down and for new social connections to be formed, reducing levels of isolation and loneliness amongst our older population, one of the most at risk groups.

Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly member for Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest, commented: “Unfortunately, older people often get left behind, unable to move our bodies to keep up with our minds. It can be difficult for us to get out of our homes, and when we do, people can sometimes see us as a cause for charity rather than respect. For this reason, it is vital that in Hackney we reach out to hear the voices of older residents and let their experiences and wisdom to inform our understanding of the world.”

Talking about the LGBTQ+ community in Hackney, John Nolan from LGBTQ+ pub and performance venue ‘The Glory’ added:  “…suddenly venues started opening up in Dalston. And all the fun was around here, all the parties, all the kids, all the energy, all the fashion, all the music, it was all going on.”

The launch event will take place October 31. Find out more here: https://crm.hcvs.org.uk/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=481

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