"This community of older and younger neighbours... makes you want to celebrate": tales from 44 social clubs

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It’s 7pm on a dark Tuesday in early December and I am dancing with exuberance to Aretha Franklin’s Respect, along with 20 or so of my Southwark neighbours. It’s the best fun I’ve had all day, and I can tell by the smiles of everyone around me that the feeling’s mutual.

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This is South London Cares’ Desert Island Discs social and we’re not even really meant to be dancing (or at least it’s not on the official agenda), but there is something about meeting this community of older and younger neighbours that makes you want to celebrate. And for me that means dancing. Dancing and really awful singing.

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I started volunteering for South London Cares in 2015. Part of the reason was convenience – their social clubs run at various times throughout the week, meaning you can always fit in a few every month – but I also wanted to get involved locally. I lived in Camberwell but I didn’t have any connection to its history. I was told it was changing but I didn’t exactly know what from.

Volunteering has meant I’ve got to know my new home, and its residents, so much better. I’ve heard about the big smogs of the 1940s and what working in the city as a woman was like in the 1950s. I’ve also learnt where the best food markets are and why I should be listening to more Jimmy Cliff and Vera Lynn.

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What keeps me coming back though, is that impossible to quantify ‘feel good factor’. After a long day in the office I can arrive at social events tired and even, dare I admit it, grumpy. But it only takes a smile from Barry or a warm hello from Petra to know this is somewhere I want to be. You can’t hear about how a neighbour met the love of their life age 64 at ballroom dancing and still be worried that you might have accidentally ‘replied all’ on your last email of the day.

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An older neighbour, Mary, summed it up for me recently. We were admiring a community mural and she commented, ‘It’s amazing what you can do when you get out.’ I couldn’t agree more Mary, thanks for joining me.

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Emily Campbell

Posted by Emily Campbell on Thursday 11th January 2018

Emily's been volunteering with South London Cares since April 2015. You'll often find her at our Desert Island Discs, Script-Reading and Quiz clubs. 

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