I went to a weekly crafting workshop; I was the only participant. So not the first time I’ve been alone, trapped by good manners such that I’d stay until the session end. In the local paper write-up, you’d think I’d been joined by hundreds.
I went to a poetry workshop and waited for more participants. I read aloud to myself.
I’ve been along to projects, taken along Up Your Street subscribers and then read on websites how Age UK instead of Up Your Street was credited with rallying the troops. Age UK kept stumm.
Yesterday I went to a Capital Age Festival 2013 free art event and four others came. Six had signed up. Six from a whole Capital’s population, mind you. But I was there. Along came a passing woman with foul breath and matted wig an hour late, took up her scissors and glue and asked what we were doing here. I had asked myself the same but reeled off the usual reminiscence, oral history and coming together in the community mantras.
In the late afternoon I debated with an intelligent octogenarian friend, who’s seen it all, the quality and definition of the Big Society and saw her disappointment at the fact, known universally, that the University of Third Age (U3A) has been taken over by the middle class. Those people who just wanted to stretch their brain without waving an ancient degree certificate are out of the margin of the margin.
Meanwhile in comes the glory of Birkbeck’s pre-degree course in art appreciation specifically targeting people without formal education. To boot, it takes place in Stratford east’s fair city next to The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in a new Birkbeck campus. Imagine. The University faces an annual recruitment challenge. No Big Society outfit wants to use precious advertising resources promoting another outfit’s enterprises so unless Birkbeck goes overboard into the community no-one will know what’s on offer. That is of course where Up Your Street comes in generously. Last year Up Your Street co-erced seniors to enrol and pick up bursaries to learn to learn all about art. They make up 50% of the intake.
Get the picture?