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‘Give us our door keys back’ Raine’s House social centre’s OAP protesters in Wapping tell Tower Hamlets mayor

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 April 2018

Kathy Bracken and the pensioners who protested at a town hall lobby to save their Raine's House social club in Wapping. Picture Mike Brooke

Kathy Bracken and the pensioners who protested at a town hall lobby to save their Raine's House social club in Wapping. Picture Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Pensioners plan a protest in Wapping today to demand that they get the keys back from the local council to the neighbourhood centre where they have their bingo and hold tea dances.

Club member Sheila Cope, 90, who runs the Wednesday bingo at Raine's House, wants the door keys back.  Picture: Vickie FloresClub member Sheila Cope, 90, who runs the Wednesday bingo at Raine's House, wants the door keys back. Picture: Vickie Flores

Elderly club members whose average age is around 84 are gathering outside Raine’s House where they’ve been holding their socials for the past 45 years which began when the London Docks were still thriving.

But Tower Hamlets Council has taken the keys off them and have sent in security contractors to take over, ready to close it for refurbishment in September.

So the angry OAPs have invited councillors running for re-election next month to watch their protest and tell the mayor.

Historic Raine's House built in 1719, now a social clubo riginally used as a school for the East End's poor. Picture: GoogleHistoric Raine's House built in 1719, now a social clubo riginally used as a school for the East End's poor. Picture: Google

“We can carry on running our socials till September—but have to call the town hall and book up every time we want to go in,” protest coordinator Kathy Bracken told the East London Advertiser.

“It’s a waste of the council’s money to hire security guards when we’ve been running the place 45 years without any trouble—we’re now all in our 70s, 80s and 90s.

“It’s absolutely crazy—so we’re asking for our keys back till September.”

Kathy Bracken, 70, and club coordinator Harry White, 78, appeal at Tower Hamlets Council to save their bingo and tea dances at Raine's House. Picture: Mike BrookeKathy Bracken, 70, and club coordinator Harry White, 78, appeal at Tower Hamlets Council to save their bingo and tea dances at Raine's House. Picture: Mike Brooke

The ‘keys’ protest follows an OAPs deputation to last week’s Tower Hamlets Council meeting with a 2,000 name petition against hiring charges being introduced.

The listed building, originally opened as a charity school for the East End’s poor by wealthy philanthropist Henry Raine in 1719, is being refurbished and turned into a community hub for hire.

The pensioners want the councillors to watch today’s 3pm protest outside the listed 300-year-old building in Raine’s Street, off Wapping Lane, and take the message back to Mayor John Biggs, who is also up for re-election himself on May 3 for his second term.

The mayor may not have to wait long—he lives in Wapping himself, just half-a-mile from Raine’s House where he even popped in on Saturday to meet the old folk.

He has promised an alternative temporary hall after September to carry on running their club until Raine’s House is restored and they can go back.

But there are still rumbles about the hourly £35-a-room hiring fees the council wants to charge, which the pensioners say will drive them out from the only social centre in the neighbourhood.

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