How a new project is helping people in South Tyneside avoid feeling lonely and isolated - by stepping back in time

A South Tyneside voluntary organisation that helps to reduce loneliness and isolation is taking people back in time.

Monday, 13th June 2022, 12:22 pm

And the work of Happy At Home is both helping the elderly of the borough as well as celebrating the Platinum Jubilee.

Happy at Home South Tyneside is a voluntary organisation and part of the Churches Together in South Tyneside charity. Their volunteers make regular visits, which are usually weekly, to see lonely, isolated people.

They then share a chat, listen to music together, share a past time or simply reminisce, and now the group’s work has taken a new turn.

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The Happy At Home project is helping to reduce loneliness in South Tyneside with a reflection on times gone by.

It has published a book called Happy and Glorious with the help of historian and photographer Paul Perry as well as funding from Art Council England’s Let’s Create Jubilee Fund.

The book shares memories of how different life was for local people in the 1950’s and covers a whole host of topics including the difficult post war period, school life, and leisure activities.

Miriam Reay from Happy at Home said: “This project has been fabulous. We have involved many of our members and enjoyed hearing their tales of life back in the day. It was fascinating to learn about life before mobile phones, computers, and the internet. Things seemed to be so much simpler then.

“Reminiscing is good for our mental health. It helps us to escape the humdrum of everyday life and forget our worries, even if it is for just a short time. It also helps to reduce stress and improves the quality of life of our members.”

The Mayor of South Tyneside Coun Pat Hay with Happy at Home's Margaret Stephenson-Gray, Margaret Foster, Wendy English, and Mim Reay, at South Shields Town Hall.

Miriam added: “We wanted the book to take people back to a different time and relive fond memories and share their experiences with others and it has certainly done that.”

The charity has published 300 copies of the book which will be given away free to everyone who is connected with the project.

But if the demand is there, there will be more books made available for a small donation to the charity.

To coincide with the book and to further celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, the charity is organising two events supported by the Art Council England’s Let’s Create Jubilee Fund.

Deborah Taylor-Smith with her fellow winners of the Covid Hero of the Year category at the Best of South Tyneside Awards, Stephen Sullivan and Paul Tann.

One will be on Tuesday, June 14, with another on Friday, June 24. There will be fifties themed afternoon tea parties with members, volunteers,

staff, and civic dignitaries attending.

Everyone who comes along is encouraged to dress up in costumes from the 1950’s, with entertainment being provided by singer Deborah Taylor-Smith, also known as ‘Wor Vera’.

Deborah kept spirits high in lockdown with her live renditions of Vera Lynn songs for the residents of the care homes and racked up 150 performances in 100 days.

South Tyneside in the 1950s.

Miriam added: “The books and the launch events were funded by Arts Council England’s - Let’s create Jubilee Fund and distributed by the Community Foundation Tyne and Wear and Northumberland. We are very grateful to everyone involved in the project and especially to photographer and local historian Paul Perry for his help collating material for the book.”

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