The Virtual Local History Group presented on Zoom
Please contact operations@southwarkpensioners.org.uk
or phone 020 7708 4556 if you would like to participate.

2-4pm every other Tuesday.

April to July 2021 schedule:

27th April “St James’s Gardens – Euston’s Lost Burial Grounds”, Tom Bolton, Author and Researcher

11th May “Prince Lee Boo of Palau and Rotherhithe”, Andrea Sinclair, Senior Artist & co-founder of Art in the Park, Burgess Park

18th May An extra session using Art to explore members’ own heritage and the journeys we have had to Southwark and elsewhere., Andrea Sinclair, also former Artist-in-Residence, Tower of London,

25th May “The Dulwich Estate, 400 years”, Ian McInnes, Retired Architect and Chair of the Dulwich Society

8th June “George Livesey and the Gas Industry in South London”, Dr. Mary Mills, Historian and blogger for Greenwich Industrial History Society

22nd June “The Perfect Playground – Crystal Palace part 3”, Michael Gilbert, Local Historian and Graphic Designer,

6th July “An Introduction to Southwark Heritage Centre”, Judy Aitken, Curator of Cuming Museum AND “Compiling a Local List of Southwark’s Heritage Buildings”, Stephanie Ostrich, Project Manager, Walworth Heritage Action Zone

20th July “Italians in Southwark”, Neil Crossfield, Local Historian and Researcher

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Scroll down to see how the Local History Group introduced streamed talks

Learning to set up group meetings with Zoom

We have all been adjusting to an unfamiliar way of life since the coronavirus restrictions kicked in. It’s remarkable how quickly many of us have got used to being on our own and to conversing with other people at a distance.

Cathy Deplessis, Director of Southwark Pensioners’ Centre, is never short of ideas to tackle new challenges. Nevertheless, I was a bit appalled when she wrote to me on 21stMarch suggesting I could test Zoom for the Centre by delivering the Local History Group programme on it. She thought this was a way we could engage with housebound older people. At the time I had rarely used Skype or Facetime and had barely heard of Zoom! I told Hannah, my daughter, about Cathy’s proposal and she gave me a Zoom tutorial a couple of days later. She said it was a Mother’s Day present!

I had already cancelled one meeting of the Local History Group on 17th March because the Pensioners’ Centre was closed for meetings of more than five people. This left one remaining session before Easter when author Jacqueline Crooks was booked to give a presentation ‘We’ve come a Long Way’. This is the title of a book she has written recording the experiences of elders from the Windrush generation who attend the Golden Oldies Club in Walworth.

For a few days, I thought about Cathy’s proposition and then I wrote to ask Jacqueline if she would consider giving her presentation via Zoom on 31st March, the date originally planned. I explained this would be an experiment for the Pensioners’ Centre and that I was a complete novice in video conferencing. Jacqueline responded with enthusiasm and said she was accustomed to delivering writing workshops on Zoom. This was a stroke of luck as her experience made me feel more confident about giving it a go.

I then wrote to everyone (just over 100 people) on my mailshot list asking them to let me know if they wanted to take part in our trial by Zooming in on the meeting planned for 31st March. The response was very positive. I soon found I had a list of seventeen people who wanted to give it a try.

I wrote some brief instructions about joining a meeting on Zoom and circulated a User Guide which had been sent to me. This included diagrams of hand signals that can be used to facilitate communication in meetings. I ran a couple of trial runs in preparation for the big day.

Then the day arrived. At 2pm precisely, fourteen people tuned into the meeting via Zoom.
It must have been beginner’s luck that we had almost no technical problems. Jacqueline gave a fascinating presentation backed up by a great collection of slides and there were a number of questions at the end of it. In gallery view, we were able to see everyone who was participating and it struck me that it’s easier for someone to put up their hand on the screen than it is if they are sitting in the back row of a meeting. Two people with disabilities joined us and they would not normally be able to get to the Pensioners’ Centre. One of our 90 year old members also participated without any difficulty in using Zoom.

We have a few regular members who do not use email and so they are excluded unless we can find a way of getting them onto email. I will be investigating this in the coming term.

I had already booked speakers for our April-July programme and nearly all have agreed to give their presentations via Zoom. They seem pleased their sessions will go ahead and that we are not daunted by modern technology.

We are going to start on Tuesday 28th April when Patricia Dark, Archivist at Southwark Local History Library, with give a talk about “Southwark’s Riverside Heritage”. I have already heard from a number of our members who intend to be there. This time I am looking forward to it!

If you would like to host a meeting yourself, you can set up an account by visiting https://zoom.us/
Meetings are free for the first 40 minutes. If regular meetings need to be longer than that, there’s a monthly charge of £14.39 Including VAT. I know there has been publicity about security risks with Zoom. I heard on the radio this morning that both the House of Commons and the House of Lords are about to launch their proceedings through Zoom (House of Lords is also going to use Microsoft Teams, another video conferencing tool). I tend to think if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me! It opens up so many possibilities, I recommend having a go.

Sally Lynes
20.04.20