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Magic Me unveils its 30-year secret how it brings old and young generations together

PUBLISHED: 17:25 25 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:47 27 November 2019

Magic Me 'generations' project. Picture: Roxene Anderson

Magic Me 'generations' project. Picture: Roxene Anderson

Roxene Anderson

One of the East End's best-loved charities bringing youngsters together with older generations is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Magic Me's 'Conbstellations' archive project where youngsters meet the elderly to learn their stories. Picture: Holly FalconerMagic Me's 'Conbstellations' archive project where youngsters meet the elderly to learn their stories. Picture: Holly Falconer

The Magic Me organisation at Bethnal Green is famed for its "drop in cocktails" to meet the elderly living in care homes to tackle isolation.

It also runs archive projects with schoolchildren meeting older people to record their life stories as well as running art projects and photography workshops helping to bring the generations together.

Magic Me today is still run by its original founder, Susan Langford, 30 years on.

Susan Langford back in 1989 when she started Magic Me inter-generation arts charity. Picture: Magic MeSusan Langford back in 1989 when she started Magic Me inter-generation arts charity. Picture: Magic Me

"Much has changed for the better since I started in 1989," she says.

"But many issues still remain, like loneliness, ageist assumptions and the exclusion of people who are seen as 'different'."

One "drop-in cocktail" evening it staged at the Pat Shaw care home in Stepney Green in 2011 had a success when 20-year-old Kim Don looked in with her mum only to find their old neighbour Carole Benfield, then 86, who they had lost touch with.

Carole Benfield, 86, meets her old neighbours Kim Don (right) and Chris Bradley at Magic Me Carole Benfield, 86, meets her old neighbours Kim Don (right) and Chris Bradley at Magic Me "drop-in cocktail" party at Pat Shaw care home. Picture: Mike Brooke

"Carole was like a gran to me since I was a baby," a delighted Kim told the East London Advertiser at the time.

"But she went into hospital and moved to a home and we didn't know where.

"Mum and I walked in here for this drop-in function and there she was."

Stepney Stories project bringing young and old together was nominated for Liberty awards. Picture: Roxene AndersonStepney Stories project bringing young and old together was nominated for Liberty awards. Picture: Roxene Anderson

They were neighbours for 20 years until Carole's accident when she couldn't return to her council flat on Mile End's British Street Estate and cope with living alone.

The charity today attracts wide support from volunteers running the London Marathon like 36-year-old West End theatre publicist Robbie Kings who ran the London, Paris and Seville marathons last year for Magic Me.

The charity was praised by judges for challenging stigma and crossing social divides when it was shortlisted for a national Liberty Human Rights award in 2017.

Recognition also came from Public Health Tower Hamlets the same year when it was commissioned to help solve isolation and loneliness in the East End, recognising its mission that older people are an asset for society, not a burden.

Magic Me now plans to start a fundraising website next month to help its expansion to include more communities in the next 30 years.

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