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Passions and skills create new opportunities in Islington

18 May 2022 · Categories: Communities Care, People Can

Since my last blog postA photo of pieces of paper pegged onto a string at the community workshop session. One of the pieces of paper says 'family' on it, another says 'making art' I’ve continued to get to know all the great organisations, activities and personalities that make up Islington’s community. Whilst a lot of this has been going along to different sessions and meeting with people over Zoom, at the end of March I got the chance to finally see lots of people together all under one roof. Mencap launched their new volunteering project with a full day of activities at St Luke’s Community Centre, and invited me along to run a workshop around Community Catalysts’ ‘People Can’ project which is all about people with learning disabilities thinking about how they could use their passions and skills to get more involved in the local community, and make their own opportunities.

People are sat around tables as part of the community workshop. They are chatting and smiling. Rebecca is stood up talking to one of the people at the table. The day of the event happened to be one of the first properly sunny days of the year, and when I arrived, the atmosphere at St Luke’s was buzzing! For lots of people, it was their first big community event since the start of the pandemic, and for me it was an opportunity to finally meet people I’d been working with online for months. There was an open mic session, an exercise class, an art session and gardening happening in the courtyard, as well as lots of people just chatting and soaking up the sun.

Photo of a washing line string with coloured pieces of paper pegged onto it. The pieces of paper have writing on. Most pieces of paper are too blurred to read but the one in focus in the centre says 'I like to make things''The workshop itself was a lovely experience, with lots of people getting involved and sharing their ideas. I set up a washing line for people to peg their suggestions and it was very quickly filled with examples of things that people loved to do and skills that people were proud of. Some of my favourite suggestions were ‘circuit training’, ‘tour guiding’ and ‘remembering people’s birthdays’ (a very underrated skill that I have not mastered!). One that really struck me, and that got a great response from the workshop participants, was ‘proving someone wrong’ about the kind of lives people with learning disabilities are able to live when given the space to try new things and take risks. This response really resonated with how people sometimes felt in the wider world. The incredible variety of skills people spoke about during our session was a clear testament to the fact that with the right support, and by working together, the possibilities are endless.

To top it all off, Mencap sent through some lovely feedback a few days later:

We just wanted to say a massive thank you for running such a fantastic interactive workshop at our Community Volunteering Launch event at St Luke’s Community Centre. You engaged so many people with the People Can activities and definitely got people thinking. Everyone who took part participated in such positive ways, your workshop made an important contribution to creating a wonderful, fun atmosphere throughout the day.

Jenny Jones, Mencap Islington

Photograph of Julian. He is outside in the sun and is smiling

Good life stories

In other news, I am excited to introduce Julian, a keen photographer with lived experience of a disability who will be joining me to capture stories from people with disabilities who are using their talents to live rich and varied lives, and contributing to the life of their local community.

My name is Julian and I have started a 7 week placement with Community Catalysts through Groundworks London, who have been helping me get back to work as I have been out of work for about 2 years. My background in work is mostly in retail as I enjoy the interaction with people. My placement will involve myself and Rebecca visiting various organisations and charities, where I will be interviewing people who work or volunteer at these places and photographing them in their environment. I am really looking forward to it as I have a passion for photography, and learning new skills.


We will be meeting some incredible people for this series, so keep your eyes peeled for the next blog!

By Rebecca Hindmarsh – Community Enterprise Catalyst (Islington)

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