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Couple bring life to a church garden

Who’s been making the news round your way this week?

25 May, 2017 — By Emily Finch

Jean and Norman Willson in the garden of St Luke’s Church: ‘Making order out of chaos’

Summer has finally arrived and the gardens of St Luke’s Church in West Holloway are blooming, thanks to the work of Jean and Norman Willson. The couple, who have been married for 54 years and live just behind Pentonville prison, have volunteered in the gardens with Sam Murphy since 2014.

After the death of their disabled daughter Victoria in 2013, the couple wanted to give something back to the church which supported them. Roses, euphorbia and laurels are just a few of the plants establishing themselves in the oasis with creeping ivy and weeds long banished. Small plums are forming in the courtyard garden and will be ready to eat in a couple of weeks.

Jean is chairwoman of Centre 404, a charity supporting people with learning disabilities and their families, but still finds time for “guerilla” gardening which sees her add plants to unloved corners of her estate. “I like making order out of chaos and it’s just therapeutic being out in the open,” Jean said.

Vicar of St Luke’s Dave Tomlinson said: “Jean and Norman are regularly there. They’ve planned out things and put some real effort into it. The garden was a bit uncared for before. They’re fantastic community people. It’s an amazing asset to us to have people like that in the church.”

Jean and Norman are in need of more green-fingered volunteers. They’ll meet at St Luke’s tomorrow (Saturday) and on the last Saturday of the month between 11am-2pm. Everyone is free to join!

Word on the street: it’s festival time

Islington’s month-long Word Festival starts next Thursday. Dancers, poets and artists will have an opportunity to learn and showcase their work. Young people aged 13 to 18 can take part in a free graffiti and rap workshop which will see them create a graffiti mural. For parents with young children, Finsbury library will be transformed into a magical landscape where story books come to life through music, dance and acrobatics. Word 2017: “Celebrate reading, writing and freedom of expression”, runs from June 1-30. Full details and brochure of events at:

‘All shook up’ as generations mix at the Alsen Day Centre

Elvis popped round to the Alsen Day Centre in Durham Road, Finsbury Park, on Thursday for a chat and a sing. The King, also known as Caledonian Road resident Dave Holman, took part in a storytelling workshop with young people from Soho Theatre.

Young people from Soho Theatre get an insight on ageing with elderly members of Alsen Day Centre in Finsbury Park on Thursday

The aim of the workshop was to get elderly day care visitors chatting to theatre-makers about ageing, an often ignored and almost taboo subject. Participant Jules Haworth, who works at the Soho Theatre, said: “I think some of the participants, including me, found it quite a moving experience, as some of us are quite detached from older generations. At one point, the centre users offered us advice for the future, the main things were – get married, buy a property, be independent, save money and don’t get stressed.”

Dave Elvis and his band, the Jukes – visitors paired up and danced

After chatting, Dave Elvis, who competed in ITV’s X-Factor, sang some of Elvis’s greatest hits for day centre visitors who paired up and danced.

“Music encourages happy thoughts, which is an excellent tonic,” said Lloyd Coombes, manager of Alsen and New Park Day Centres. “Dave Elvis is a local legend. He is 73 years old, and attends the day centre once or twice a week.”


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