Transcript: The Peckham Experiment. Henrietta Trotter in conversation with Lisa Curtice

The centre was set up in 1926 as a public health research study and became something of an icon for people interested in self organising communities.

Podcast Episode: The Peckham Experiment. Henrietta Trotter in conversation with Lisa Curtice

Category: Social work (general) 

What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.

LC - Dr Lisa Curtice
HT - Henrietta Trotter

Henrietta Trotter was closely involved with the Pioneer Health Centre, popularly known as the Peckham Experiment. The centre was set up in 1926 as a public health research study and become something of an icon for people interested in self-organising communities. Dr Lisa Curtice, has long been interested in the Peckham Experiment, collaborating with founder, Dr Alex Scott-Samuel and others, to write its history, and subsequently becoming a trustee of the Pioneer Health Foundation. Iriss invited Lisa and Henrietta to discuss the experiment and its relevance to public health today.

LC It’s an absolute delight to be here to share with you something that I have been interested for a long time and Henrietta was actually a part of. The Peckham Experiment was a book that was written about it during the war and then the name became attached to it, but in it’s time it was called the Pioneer Health Centre. And it’s a very, and I don’t know what the word is, kind of very resonant piece of experience, so you have the historical reality of what happened, it was a research exercise. It was a research study rather than a service, the service was part of the research study. It was a research study, it became hugely influential during the war and post war period, particularly in public health, but it’s now become a little bit of a hidden gem. And you have the conditions of the experiment as they were, but then you also have the resonance that it’s had for people since, and I suppose I am one of those people, because it was, although it was set up according to very strict parameters - the subtitle there is ‘a search for health’ - which is their title, it was experimental in its conditions but very open in its learning. So they set out on a journey to find out what created health, that was their plan, and so because of that open ended approach, which meant that the people who were part of it influenced it, it has become something of an icon for people who are interested in self organising communities, and the anarchist writer, or the writer about anarchism, Colin Wood, for example, who died recently, identified it as one of the key pieces of British history in terms of self organising communities.

I wouldn’t entirely sell it that way, because it was partly that, it was partly other things as well, you know, so you also get this kind of historical rewriting of it and those of us who are involved are guilty of that, so there’s a booklet which you can take if you are interested, which was produced in … 90s, I was going to say … called ‘Total Participation, Total Health’, which is how we were selling it at the time of WHO and so on, so there’s a little bit of rewriting happens. But what I want to say is what happened, and then there’s almost the principles of human organising in communities that may not be unique to Peckham that it brought out fully. We are talking about a probable crossroads in public health and this is part of its influence … on the left hand side, what’s that Henrietta … it’s a plan, it’s about composting, and the founders of the Peckham Experiment, which started in the 1920s, were founder members of the Soil Association, and their vision for post war planning was a network of health centres, of organising health centres that had organic farms attached to them. And part of the story of Peckham’s rise and fall is the supposal of a completely different model from the one that was adopted from the NHS, the one that is very low on services where people are subscribing our responsible members of the health service, which is not free, and where food, health, living and life, what we might describe as wellbeing and resilience, are the things that it’s all about.

The experiment was the brainchild of 2 doctors, a Dr George Scott-Williamson, who was a Scot, and Dr Innes Pearce. They had met over his research, he was doing research on the thyroid, he was interested in immunology and kind of got to that to resilience, so what keeps people well, why do some people succumb to disease and others stay well, and he was interested in what keeps people well. She had been a child health doctor in the East End of London, and she had observed her inability to overcome the social conditions around children. You may hear on the film she came from quite an affluent background, I presume, or is that just a 1930’s voice?

HT I think reasonably, yes

LC Yes, so they conceived this idea of a social experiment in which they could look for what makes people well, and their pilot study, if you like, was to open in a house in Queens Road in Peckham, there’s still a blue park on the building, a small version of what was to come later. And that small version was a, not a health centre as we know, it was a family club that people joined, there were medical services and there was a club room and there was a social secretary for organising events, and you can just see them there in the background. And then they did something quite extraordinary, because they were looking, they had chosen this fairly balanced community and they were looking to find health in it, and they had 112 families and they didn’t find health, they found a very high level of illness, because they were giving people very regular examinations, and so rather than saying ’this really shows the need for our service’, they said ’this shows what we are doing won’t bring about change’, and they stopped. So they published a book called ‘Case for Action’, about the level of ill health that they were finding, and they closed and they rethought. And years of planning and fundraising followed before they launched what is generally known as the Peckham Experiment, although both parts are part of it.

The Peckham Experiment - the building is still there - it was in a purpose build building, there was Nuffield funding into it, there was Halley Stewart Trust funding for the research, and there was Philanthropic funding through Jack Donaldson, later Lord Donaldson, who was interested in the social anomie that he perceived at the time. And the quotation there is what was on the leaflet that was put through people’s doors in Peckham. It was an invitation to join a health club, to join a family health club and you had to live within pram pushing distance of the centre. It’s new, it’s the first of its kind in the world, eyes are turned to it from all over the world to see what progress it will make, if it succeeds, the idea will spread. ‘You have the chance to cooperate in this great experiment. You have the chance to contribute your experience and feelings to its working out. You have the chance to influence it, to make it grow in the right way.’

So from the beginning the idea was that the members could shape the centre. From the doctors, or the biologists as they were known, as they called themselves, it was a laboratory for the study of human living. And they talked about living rather than health. The building is quite extraordinary, it was built by an engineer, Owen Williams, who build the Boots factory in Nottingham and the old Herald building in Glasgow, so it’s a concrete frame which supports a great deal of glass, so if we see the film, you will see a very plain, a very factory like, and the building is very light and airy, and was built around a swimming pool in the centre, so there’s great visibility and light and air and the windows opened, so it must give a frame of a light and airy transparent cladding.

What happened there, within this building, families joined, they had to commit to this weekly subscription, although I am not sure they all paid it, they had to join as a family and what they were provided with was the opportunity to engage in the activities. From the point of view of the doctors, these were opportunities to grow health, to increase their self determination, to make choices, to develop individually as families and as a community, so the resources were very much a means to an end. They had to commit to this annual health overall, which was an annual battery of medical tests, but the use of that was quite unusual because all of the information was fed back to members with an emphasis on what was right, rather than what was wrong. The consultations were as a whole family and people were not told what to do with the information, so they were advised that they could decide or not to take the treatment.

To cut a long story short, there was a vibrant period before the war, the building was closed during the war, which is when the book, the famous book, the Peckham Experiment, came out, and reopened rather quickly after the war because of the pressure of members who wanted their community back. It never achieved the funding base that it required and closed suddenly in 1950 to the anguish of the members. What survived was the ideas and the sense that some of the things that had been discovered there had certainly not been equalled in the NHS, but maybe had not yet fully found their place.

So it sits alongside a number of pre-NHS health centre experiments, and particularly I suppose health centres, but many of those health centres were collections and multiple services and Peckham was much more than that, it was this trying to grow an organic community.

I could talk a lot more, but I think people would be much more interested to hear from you, so I am just going to open up the discussion and then we could … so I would like to know how you got involved in this, Henrietta?

HT Lisa asked me this earlier and I found it a bit difficult to say because I was born and brought up in the country on a farm, but I was pushed off to a boarding school when war broke out and it so happened that Scott-Williamson was one of the Governors, who, when I was in my 6th form, he came to talk about Peckham, and something just intrigued me, but I am still intrigued why, because as I say my own background and experience was nothing very much to do with London or people or families. But I was sufficiently interested that I wrote to them and asked if I could come as a volunteer, they didn’t actually have volunteers, so I became what they called a ‘student observer’, and I was about 19 when I went, I think.

I would like to say just a few things about the place that this word ‘health’, I don’t know what it means to any of you, but as Lisa said, when Scott-Williamson was working with thyroid and other things, he was so much a doctor and he was always coping with people who weren’t healthy, or disease or dis-ease as he often called it, and he found himself saying, ‘well what is this thing called health, what is it when people don’t have all these … how could they be like?’ So it was very much a sort of … there wasn’t an idea of what … he didn’t know what he was going to discover when he opened the first one, the Little House - he realised how many people did have something physically or mentally wrong with them, and so that’s when he said ‘we have got to find out what people might be like if they didn’t have anything wrong.’ So there is this, very much this question mark. So that when the centre opened in 1935, in this big, glass building, in which everybody could always see what everybody else was doing. The medical side was shut off and there were one or two rooms of people doing plays or something, it was shut off, but everything else you could sit in the cafeterias and see people swimming, you could walk past and see people in the gym, you could walk through the corridors and see people somebody playing billiards … whatever was going on was there. And this was deliberate, because as it says there …‘inspired by the sight of action …’ so that there was this big question. And the other thing was that although Scott-Williamson himself was in a sense the boss, he wouldn’t allow anybody to organise anybody else and I believe I wasn’t there in the earliest stages when he’d opened obviously, there was chaos and a lot of damage in the first weeks and months because people sort of weren’t used to being free to do what they wanted, but then they suddenly realised if they made a mess of this place, then there was no place for them to have, so they began to evolve disciplines in the community.

LC Is it true that the kids stuff and throwing the ashtrays along the floor and breaking the windows …

HT … because by the time I went there, which was after it had reopened, and therefore the core of the people were members and they had, by this time evolved their community and their ideas and how things went, so there was complete order and the children didn’t do that kind of thing.

LC And I understand that one of the ways this kind of self organising was enabled, was through the ticketing system, is that right?

HT Yes, this is something which I think evolved and hadn’t been at the start, but it was very much there when I went, and as I said I was a student observer, but I did have … one of my jobs was having tickets, and children would come up and ask you for a ticket and then they would write what they were going to do. Now there was … one reason was because these were collected at the end of the day and it was therefore interesting to see what children were doing and, you know, see their developmental patterns, but the other was that it meant they were actually kept coming back and I could be anywhere … so they had to come and look for me, but it meant they were sort of going round the building because they had to look for the one or two people who had tickets, so it had a sort of dual role, I think.

I was going to tell a story here because it might raise some questions … this is a rather nice photograph of some children in the gym, and I was just saying to Lisa, there are only 4 or 5 children there, and I can literally remember, again as an observer, all I did, I didn’t control, I didn’t say ’no, you can’t do that’, that wasn’t allowed. There could sometimes be 30 or 40 children in that gym and some of them would be climbing ropes, some of them would be swinging and they didn’t have an accident, because they were aware, something I am afraid a lot of our children aren’t today. But the story I also want to tell you is a little girl, who I had worked in the nurseries, and when they were considered to be fairly sort of safe on their feet and able to cope with the world, they came out of the nurseries and they would be allowed to go round, and this little girl, I remember her very well because she was called Stella, and the first day she came into the gym, and she went up the bars and she went about 4 steps up and she came down. And this went on for, I think at least an hour, and by the end of the hour she was going to the top. To me it was an example, I had known her since she was quite small, of experiencing the world and discovering what she could do and how she could do it, so 1 or 2 steps, 3 or 4, 5 or 6 until she was at the top. No-one saying ’no, no, don’t do this’, and Mummy being there ready to grab her and … anxious she might fall, and all the things we might do as mums, she discovered her own world, and I think, to me it’s very much a picture of Peckham.

LC That was both a sort of, I suppose it wasn’t a pre-existing theory of learning, was it, it was a kind of discovery that people, children particularly, because of the amount of freedom, if I understand it rightly, they were able to do that thing that kids do, of going for something when they were ready to go for it …

HT Absolutely, yes

LC … I mean that strikes me as the genius of Peckham, for adults as well, that you didn’t have to take an offer when you weren’t ready for that, but when you kind of wanted to do that thing, you could do it and do it and do it and do it, so you could ride a bike and ride a bike and fall off, and so that was true in the school and that was …

HT Well again, I’d like to say the school because I did have a period in the school, again as an observer, but sort of I did help, and this was fascinating because there was certain things the children all did together, there would be certain times when we would sit and read stories or they would be singing songs, but when they were doing … school was from 3 to 7 years old, if a child started writing and was enjoying writing, they might write for the whole morning, nobody would say, ’now we are moving on’, or they might do maths or they might do nothing, nobody pressurised them, now I found that very interesting, I think schools and education have gone through a lot of different ideas and still are. Now, in my older age, I do in fact go back to school and I read to kids, but I am fascinated how different the school today is from the in between Peckhams, because they sit on the floor and the teachers talk to them and they do go around and choose, but for all that they are, to a certain extent, disciplined, ‘we are doing this today’, or ‘we are doing that today’, you know, but there is much more freedom. Some people think children have too much freedom now, that’s for you to decide … but certainly there they had freedom, but they did learn to make very good choices, yes, appetite for learning.

LC And it’s interesting when we show the pictures and we will put more round in a minute, people often remark on this must be pre health and safety, so the children the in gym, you may notice are swinging from ropes, so they are using the gym equipment the way they want to use it, there isn’t like a given series of exercises for them to do. The school, as I understand it, grew out of the community, so I should have said that there was an intergenerational environment, so particularly focused on young parents, I suppose, so there was a nursery where parents could learn how to look after young children, but also was a crèche, but when those children got to school age, the parents said this is a great shame that they are going into such a different environment, they’re centre babies, and so they asked to open a school, and ?? said if you want to do it, you do it, and so a school was opened, and the school actually survived the closing of the centre, it went on … that, for me, was one of the pieces of evidence that a self organising community had begun to grow out of this quite tight framework.

Originally there’s a description of the foundation, there’s a school in the book that Innes Pierce wrote, called ‘The Quality of Life’, apart form the Peckham Experiment, the books are quite tough going, aren’t they?

HT Uh huh

LC … because the were such, I think they were genuine innovators, so an existing word would never do, so they created their own language for almost every process and that, I think, doesn’t help the translation into what it was actually about, it has this kind of unique closed flavour to it, so the book - ‘Science, Synthesis and Sanity’ is really quite hard going …

HT It’s very hard going …

LC … the Peckham Experience is good reading

HT The one which I think is quite an interesting one, and I like the title too, is called ‘Being Me and Also Us’, that says so much, those 5 words, so much what it was

LC Yes, and that’s an account of interviews with centre members

HT … Alison Stallibrass, I was there with her, she had been at Peckham before the war and she came back once or twice, she was a great person

LC Yes, and I was thinking just then of a quote from that book about the centre school, which is another teacher in the area apparently said, she could always recognise the Peckham children because they knew what they wanted, so it was that kind of … self realisation that was made possible within the centre.

Let us stop talking and let us ask you about the things that would interest you.

Q You said the school was from 3 to 7, is there evidence about how children coped then when they went into the sort of ordinary school?

HT I think they must have found it quite difficult, on the other hand even by 7, if they’ve begun to sort of learn things and know where they are going, I think in some ways, although they must have occasionally sort of come up against authority and not liked it, and I think also they would be sufficiently involved that they would get on with what they wanted to do, even if they had to put up with what they didn’t want. I don’t know, I never really actually spoke to a child to say, ‘how was school today’, because … well while I was there, they were either at that school or they had, you know, it had only started, indeed I think it started in about 1947. But no, no, I think it must have been quite tough, yes.

  • One of the aspects of it being the kind of experiment that it was is that there isn’t follow up, for example of the people who left, that was not of interest to them, they were interested in what would happen for the people who took up the offer and who grew within it, so we don’t know … there’s no control in that sense, there’s none of that.

Q Did families attend every day?

HT It was open every day except Monday, Monday was the sort of day off, because obviously the weekend was the … and it was open roughly, apart from the school, it was open from 2 in the afternoon until about 10 at night, and the 2 in the afternoons were the mums coming in with the babies and then 4 o’clock all the school kids came in, and then it would be slightly quieter, and then in the evening, more men working than … so that was more the men, but quite a lot of wives that come back, there was a crèche for … you know children could come in if they hadn’t … if their parents allowed them to and there was a crèche facility.

I mean it must have been an amazing facility for the period in the area, I mean I guess people found a lot of their leisure in it that they …

HT Oh yes, it was interesting that it was very often children that brought Mums and Dads, because somebody’s pal at school was there and they weren’t, they did allow children to come, to give it a try and … parents could come and sort of give it a try before they joined. And it was a very specific area, it was within a pram pushing area and it was one on side of a fairly busy road …

Yes, unfortunately, yes …

HT … which annoyed the people who lived on the other side of the busy road, but it was just … I mean even in 1935, there was traffic and things .. so that children could get there safely themselves, and it was within walking distance, so people would use it because they wanted people to use it from the point of view of the experiment.

Yes, no, there were no rules, you had to live within this area, you had to join as a family and in those days, Mum, Dad and children were sort of more basic than today. You had to agree to a health overhaul for all the family once a year, and you were expected to pay your membership. I think most of them did if they could.

Q I am just interested in how people could access it if they didn’t have the membership fee, for instance, or …

HT If you didn’t belong, you couldn’t access it, no.

LC the question is, if you couldn’t afford the fee, what could …

HT Well that’s where I don’t know if there was some help, but I mean I am not very good at translating, it was a shilling a week in those days, which I don’t know … it wasn’t a huge amount. But it was an experiment, so they … within the rules of the experiment, and at that time, I don’t know if any of you know Peckham today, I have been there recently, but in those days it was chosen because it wasn’t an affluent area, but it wasn’t a poverty area. There was a big mix of people from sort of … people who might be working in the docks or something, but there were lawyers and doctors and school teachers, you know. People did have money - they weren’t unemployed basically - in spite of it being in the 1930’s, which some of you may know was a pretty bad time for unemployment.

LC So they went for there because it was sort of a cohesive area and they were looking at communities …

HT Mainly there was a chance, as I say, yes people could be healthy, there would be no material reason why they shouldn’t be healthy.

LC I should have said at the beginning that when the first part of the experiment closed, when they closed the house in Queens Road, and they had this realisation that… it was no good just offering people something, you had to effect the environment, they thought, I think - that breaking off the workplace environment was more than they could do in the controlled experiment, so they chose people’s leisure as the area of life where they could, if you like, improve the environment and then see if people were able to take that up and live richer lives really, rather than healthier lives in a narrow sense. And their ultimate definition of health … was about that symbiotic relationship between the person and their environment widely understood, so they speak about the social soil.

HT It was more than just absence of illness or disease.

Q How did they capture that, you know when people that were part of the experiment, how did they … who did the health checks, I am interested in what that found … but how did they measure … social capital?

HT Well I mean they would measure the sort of physical things that were wrong quite easily and they did find that these kind … and as Lisa mentioned, they didn’t actually put it right themselves, they were merely given the information and this was pre health service, remember, and it was up to the person to then go to their GP and get things put right, which they nearly always did. So you can measure that side of it, but just because they began to engage and live a fuller life, it’s at that point that these illnesses, which tended to come back if they went back in the same environment, did not come back, that was the sort of big thing they found, I think, that people really did seem to get on top and living fuller lives seemed to not produce these illnesses.

LC So they were looking at the health of the babies, weren’t they, I suppose I think they would have expected that a generation on or whatever, you would see a real change in the health of young children and babies, but it didn’t go for long enough and the records actually got blown up, so there isn’t really that kind of objective evidence. So they were measuring the health states and they were doing … not medicals, all kinds of levels of measurement of people and having quite, I think quite high standards, quite high thresholds of what they would regard as healthy. But a lot of the quality of what happened, I guess that was captured in the conversations and … I mean you might talk a little bit more perhaps about your role as observer, because people are walking around all the time trying to capture those small differences and telling stories about that and some of that is in the Peckham Experiment book, about how they were noticing … I suppose you might say, different behaviour patterns, amongst people.

HT Right from the beginning, the doctors were very concerned about food and nutrition and … do you all know what the Soil Association is? It’s the movement for organic food and the way things are grown, and Scott Williamson was one of the founders of the organic movement. And so right from the very beginning there was interest in farming and at the house where the doctors lived and where I had the privilege of living when I went after war, which was slightly out of Peckham, in the country, but they had a small farm. But during the war years, people … some people actually lived out there, but they did grow their own vegetables and things and from early on they had cows with milk and the mothers and babies got the first option of fresh milk, they also … I learned how to make wholemeal bread when I was at Peckham, and I have made it ever since, because that in itself is a wholefood, which is good nourishment. So I mean, I think, as well as all the activity, I am quite certain that the nourishment, the actual physical food nourishment that the children got, and you will see pictures here, again, in the morning at the school, they got drinks and some fruit, something like that, but in the afternoon, the babies nursery, the children all got a little meal which was … I mean you see babies eating salad, now how many of your … I know my own children, they weren’t very keen on salad to begin with.

Q I was just going to ask, I was interested in how all the food produced by the farm was distributed?

HT Well the first priority was mothers and babies, it all went to the centre what there was … during the war, I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but I presume it just fed the people around about and the locals, but once it reopened after the war, it all went to the centre. I don’t know if they got enough, I don’t think they would have made enough to feed everybody, because it had its own cafeteria. I mean I do think food and nutrition was important to the general health, using that word ‘health’, as I still … I am absolutely convinced it is today.

LC And it was social too, wasn’t it, I mean the idea was that people would eat the bread and then talk about it and then …

HT Oh yes, yes …

LC … you would see and do kind of thing, you know, you would experience it and then you would ask questions about it. I always remember … you know, a very funny bread but I got used to it, kind of thing … so the principles were live, I mean live milk, live fresh food, it’s amazing to think that Oakley was like 7 miles from Peckham.

HT There’s still … there is a little group of us who call ourselves the Trustees of Peckham, and I think what we … the legacy would be the realisation that the family group, whatever it is today, there was still some sort of group, we have arguments about what we do … I am of the old school …

LC We do

HT … but I do think the parental contribution and taking part in the lives of children is terribly important, and I think community is the next important, so that the legacy, I think, is something which sadly I think we’ve lost today. I am hopeful it will, perhaps not in my lifetime, come back. But it’s not just… children, adolescents - we’re all in our different compartments and we don’t mix much. But these things called Apps and whatever else it is, I bet you all have, which is isolating people from mixing with each other. And I think human … you know, that’s a miss, we have got to get back to realising actually that human beings are thousands of years old and we’ve … we can’t just change our basics in a period just because we have become a bit mechanical - but that’s up to you lot …


LC For me it’s intangible in some ways. It’s the inspiration that it gives to people whenever I have talked to community groups and so on, that reinforces people who think there can be a way of doing things in a community that is not based on regulation and telling people what to. And it’s not that this is the only model, it is that it’s incredibly reinforcing to know that it happened and to recognise the same principles, so there’s something about the quality of that live experience and … as you can see, I mean Henrietta and I know each other, and that being that living connection, the gossip as it was describe within the centre, that kind of continues, it’s continued generationally, of course it comes from other projects as well and it’s that, it’s the quality of that experience and that connection and how we can be part of social conditions that enable that to happen, as opposed to quashing it, I suppose for me.

HT The rules are that nobody organises anybody else, except himself …

Q How were decisions made?

HT Well people get together and make decisions. I mean that is different from somebody saying, you are going to do this. I mean they might say, ‘will you be the leader’ and ‘will you decide for us how best to run this play or play this badminton’, but they would have selected that leader as it were, and decided that they were …

Q So it wasn’t somebody coming in and going, ‘I want to do this and … will you back me enough to go and do it?’

HT Yes, I mean sort of … I think in any group that you do have, things evolve, don’t they, even when there are rules …

LC I kind of suspect it’s gotten into this kind of … not pushing people that way, but you know, it’s not that people sprang fully, ready to self organise. I mean she was continually having to say, ’no, I won’t do that, you know …’

HT I think in the pre-war one, this was very much all evolving and then people were realising that some people were leaders and some people found skills they sort of hadn’t had the chance to know they had from that. And, as I say, by the time I came, that nucleus of the idea of community was already there, and so I think people coming kind of accepted it right from early on. I mean I think we are today, we are used to being regulated and structured … it’s a thing of interest and this business of glass, because you would have lots of women sitting who had never swum, they had probably never seen a swimming pool, and then they would see some brave soul who was very like themselves - older and plump like you and me - and they would say to themselves, ‘oh well, if Mrs So and So can do that, then maybe I can …’ And there was one rule that a child or an adult, there was a very, very small pool, which you had to be able to swim across as a child, certainly I don’t know if the adults did, before you were allowed into the big pool, but that was a sort of progression, it wasn’t a … I think it was a natural or …

LC I was just going to say, I have got one photograph here, just to disabuse people, it was this sort of hippy land of flowers and … because I presume it’s the sort of dance class …

HT Yes, I think the men had decided they wanted to …

LC Those young men … I mean part of it was to introduce young people to … I mean this was part of the whole thing, was to create new families and to give people a rich environment in which they would pick an appropriate partner.

HT A dance every Saturday night and there was enough people within the community to have their own bands.

Q One question I am really interested in is the intergenerational aspect, today we live in a generation that’s fractured, my boys … and I just wanted to hear a bit more about that aspect of it.

HT Well it was completely intergenerational and I think, as I say, the different times when people tended to come in, but certainly on a Saturday, which was usually a non working day, all the family would probably come and their babies … and Saturday night was the dance night, and you had adolescents who were quite happy to dance at the same time as their Mums and Dads and … so no, I think there was much more intergenerational then than there is now. I mean now, teenagers, the thought of going to a dance that their Mum and Dad was at, I think would be … they just wouldn’t go, would they?

LC Over the years when we have been looking at the kind of ‘Peckhamish’ type things and looking at the leisure centres, that’s been one of the biggest differences, is trying to find an area in which people … and I am not sure that they were all necessarily doing things together …

HT No, no

LC … but they were kind of in the same space …

HT I might say I met my husband there.

LC Yes, you just had to quickly tell that story of when Douglas came to …

HT Okay, have any of you heard of the Iona Community?


HT George McLeod? Well the Iona Community was started by George, a Minister called George McLeod, who was a Minister in Govan in Glasgow in the 1930s, when there was a huge amount of unemployment, and he realised that it’s not whether they can make bread, you needed more than bread. And he gathered people together and he took them to Iona, where there was an Abbey and there had been a complete Monastery, and the Abbey had been rebuilt in the early 1900s, but the rest was still a ruin. And he took these people there and they were stonemasons and builders, and he himself is a Minister and so half of the community were Ministers and half were people from Govan. And so they started to rebuild. And so the Ministers were actually the … the boys, who had to do the dirty work, as it were, because it was the skilled people who did the building, that’s how it started and it still goes on today, the Iona Community, although all the buildings have long since been completed. Well my husband worked in Govan, just as he left school and he met up with George McLeod and he became a member of the Iona Community. He became a Minister, and it was the Iona Community that heard about Peckham and its community and so George McLeod went down to have a look at it and he sent a man, Douglas Trotter, the man I married, down to go and see what community was all about, and so that’s how I met him, and that’s how an English lass married a Glaswegian…

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