Max: It’s very diverse around here, it’s lovely. In the Self Advocacy Group we’re all about the local community and sharing our stories. Usually at every meeting we give our Group news.
The 311 café here in Community House is run by people with learning disabilities and it’s a hub because people come here for drop-ins, it’s a good place to come. It’s a public café.
Raymond: I live in Palmers Green. I live in a group home with eight residents. I have my own room where I keep my music centre and my own television. We go for community walks because you’ve got to exercise and eat healthy and not eat too much fatty stuff. On a Monday I go to another group where I do cleaning and decorating.
The other thing I do is gardening. The community garden is in Tottenham and we go as volunteers. We’ve got the greenhouse and palm houses with fish, one place with birds, one with hens what gives eggs, and we’ve got rabbits. I like gardening, I like weeding and potting because it is interesting instead of being stuck in the college. I used to go to Enfield College, and the manor with shire horses. I went to lots of colleges and I did art, craft and woodwork and computer. After being at college for four years I wanted to change.
It’s St Georges Day on Monday and there’s going to be a party in the garden and some things. This year there are going to be parties in the streets for the Jubilee. We are doing our own residents party. We’re going to sit in the garden and have a few flags up on the tree and have crisps and drinks.
Max: Ian can talk about the Ruth Winston Centre. The Ruth Winston Centre is a lifeline, for the elderly especially.
Ian: I live in Southgate. I like coming here once a month to the self advocacy group and to see people. I can walk or get a bus here. I do voluntary work in The Ruth Winston Centre like shopping, getting stamps, watering plants in the summer. Things they can’t do themselves. It is a daycentre for the elderly, people 55 and over. It’s people from all backgrounds and people with learning disabilities. I feel valued there. It feels good. I’ve been going there 17 years. We get badges for doing voluntary service. I go to Community Link on Thursday afternoon, we just drop-in, to socialise with other people. Once a month I go to the disco at New Options Daycentre. There are lots of good things in the area.
I go to a healthy eating group once a week. I cook food in the microwave and I watch Coronation Street. On a Thursday evening I go to Gateway Club and play snooker and table tennis and occasionally they have a disco. I like doing anything. I’m good at snooker, I win.
Max: Everybody knows each other from the different daycentres and groups, they all meet and support each other. One of the benefits of the self advocacy group is people can come and discuss issues. We can see that people have a good network of support around them. And people support each other because they understand the things they are going through.
Paul: I’ve been coming here to Community House since about 1993 and I go regularly to the church. I really enjoy coming here. I come to the keep fit classes and to the health drop in. I really enjoy going to these groups to keep myself occupied and calm. I get support here, because my Mum is getting on, and my sister has her children to look after. They’ve got work to do so I have to look after myself and there is support at St Joseph’s. I can calm down and talk about things. We talk to each other and socialise. I am happy to live here where I am. I like to be on my own and independent and go on the bus independently. I like to sit on the top at the front except I go in regular cabs at night when it gets dark.
Max: When you say you go upstairs who is it you are trying to avoid? Is it the youth?
Paul: Yes the young people, I can hear the school children messing about laughing at you and teasing you and provoking you.
Max: There is a massive gap between the youth and the disabled community. But there is some work being done. One of the local daycentres on Fore Street started their own travel training school for people with learning disabilities, in conjunction with Transport for London. They meet up once a month and they have a bus that runs along Fore Street. They role play situations so they can learn to adapt to new situations and now people who were terrified of getting on buses have learnt how to deal with situations. It’s organised by Community Link Edmonton. Local schoolchildren have been recruited to do the role play and to act like naughty school kids so people can learn how to deal with that. So there is some work being done locally to try and bring people together. We’re the first place to do it in the whole of London. That’s something that was born here
Ronnie: I go to the daycentre during the week. I go swimming. I don’t go to the library. I enjoy drum circle.
Gary: I’ve just been away for Easter. My Dad is not too good he’s not been well. He’s diabetic and he is 72. It normally runs in the family doesn’t it? I’m 34. I go bowling and to Men’s group. We talk about different stuff. We talk about men’s cancer.
Stephen: Here we talk about local news, roadworks and things, and funding. We’ve had to lose a lot of activities.
Max: One to One organise various groups and initiatives like “Training for Change”. Often people with learning difficulties can find it difficult to cope with new things.
Gary: At first it was hard to cope with new things. I like coming here and talking and reading the minutes. We’ve just had to deal with Switchover on the TV. We had support for that. We got a leaflet through the post. Also we’ve got the election coming up. I’ve no idea yet who I’ll vote for.
Lee: I do things at the daycentre. I like it. I watch videos and do art. I do swimming but not very often.
Max: Hey everyone, have you seen Jean’s nails? At the women’s group they’ll get their nails done and their hair done which is really good for self esteem, they do a lot with women about looking good and feeling good.
Paul: I like living in Enfield and I’d like to stay around here. The most important thing is the meetings and the things they do here.
This is an edited text of a recent conversation with Raymond, Lee, Stephen, Paul, Ian, Ronnie, Paul L, Gary, Jean, Max, Naomi and Daphne: members of the Enfield Disability Action Self Advocacy Group, their support workers and EDA staff and volunteers.