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Exhibitions & Galleries

Phyllis Oberman

 By Phyllis Oberman, Art Aficionado

Travelling or holidaying in the United Kingdom, and interested in galleries, museums and culture generally? There are many really good websites that will answer your questions.

These include the national tourist boards of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

So have a look at:

This last site includes Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland.

Really Realistic

People sometimes say, “it's so realistic it could be a photograph” when looking at a particularly life-like painting. This type of painting was much criticised by the art establishment for many years, but now this work is being recognised as a special talent not shared by all artists.

Spray by Harold Williamson

Spray, 1939 by Harold Williamson, ©
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum

True to Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s and 1930s is a new exhibition at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art during the Edinburgh Art Festival and runs until 29th October, 2017.

It showcases a wonderful collection of works by a forgotten generation. It will be the first to explore the realist tradition of British painting between the wars mostly not seen since the 1930s.

All The Fun of the Fair by Ernest Proctor

     All The Fun of the Fair, 1924 by
   Ernest Proctor, Worthing Museum
      & Art Gallery © Estate of Ernest

The artists featured in this exhibition worked in fine detail producing smooth paintings that barely showed the brush-strokes.

Their subjects often featured the new social developments and technologies that came to the fore in the inter-war years such as popular travel, sport and hobbies.

Pauline Waiting by Herbert James Gunn Royal Academy of Arts

   Pauline Waiting, 1939 by Herbert
    James Gunn Royal Academy of
  Arts, London, diploma work, 1961
   © Estate of Herbert James Gunn

The Director of The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Simon Groom, said about the show, “It's unashamedly beautiful and technically superb. This is the biggest exhibition of its kind since The Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions of the 1930s.

“I think visitors will find the work visually stunning and they'll also make a lot of new discoveries.”

For further information visit the website at 

Concessionary tickets are available. The exhibition concludes on 29th October, 2017.

Drawing Master

The Ashmolean in Oxford has an exceptional exhibition of drawings by the Renaissance master, Raphael, until 3rd September 2017. Raphael was born in Urbino, Italy, in 1483. His father was a painter, courtier and writer and his father's workshop and the court of Urbino provided him with superlative training and experience.

Later he was invited to Rome by Pope Julius II initially to work on the Pope's private library. In Rome his fame grew for his paintings and drawings. Sadly, Raphael died of a 'high fever' aged only 37.

Portrait of a Youth, believed to be a self-portrait of Raphael

  Portrait of a Youth, believed to be
    a self-portrait of Raphael, about
     1500-1 © Ashmolean Museum,
               University of Oxford

Raphael's drawings were often preliminary works to a painting, but his highly finished drawings were prized in their own right to be sold or presented to patrons and admirers.

His contemporaries in Italy included Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo and, in Germany Albrecht Durer to whom he presented a drawing.

Seated mother embracing her child

Seated mother embracing her child
   circa 1512 © Ashmolean Museum

This exhibition of Raphael's exquisite drawings includes loans from The Louvre in Paris and The Uffizi in Florence. Fifty of the works are from the Ashmolean's own collection, but as with all drawings, they rarely get displayed because of their extreme sensitivity to light.

So this is a rare opportunity to see 120 of Raphael's drawings in different materials in one place. The show continues to The Albertina in Vienna when it closes in Oxford.

Head of an Apostle, The Albertina Vienna

       Head of an Apostle, c1519-20
            © The Albertina, Vienna

For further information visit the website at

Concessionary tickets are available and Art Fund members pay half-price.

Mister Postman

A brand new museum opened in London on 28th July – The Postal Museum – telling the story of centuries of postal history previously hidden from view. This extraordinary new enterprise shows hundreds of years of postal services, thousands of objects, and millions of stamps and uses clever interactive displays.

Objects include clothes worn by postal staff over the years, some quite elaborate and colourful. In 1934 there were even plans to deliver mail by rocket; plans are on display. An interesting exhibit is a sick note for a horse dated 1898. At that time much mail was delivered by horse and this chap had sore shoulders!

Historic Post Boxes at The Postal Museum

            Historic Post Boxes at
              The Postal Museum

Visitors get to ride underground on the newly-revealed Mail Rail – the 100-year-old miniature subterranean Post Office railway that used to move post around London to railway stations and postal depots.

The journey includes a stop at the original Mount Pleasant station (Mount Pleasant was London's giant sorting office) to view an audio visual display reliving the heyday of the railway.

Mail Rail

                          Mail Rail

Mail Rail - a new train moves through the network

      Mail Rail – a new train moves
              through the network

The new museum is based in Clerkenwell and Mail Rail is accessed through the old engineering depot across the road from the museum.

There are concessionary tickets and full details can be found at

End Note

On Bournemouth's East Cliff in Dorset is the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery, Museum and garden. It was built in 1901 as a magnificent private house by Sir Merton and Lady Annie Russell-Cotes who were great art collectors.

In 1907 they gifted the house and its collection to the local authority. Visitors can enjoy the collection and the beautiful landscaped garden and take tea in the restaurant.

For details visit

You can see much of the collection of paintings in the Russell-Cotes on the Art UK website at

Favourite Gallery or Museum

If you have a favourite local art gallery or museum that you would like to share with Sixtyplusurfers readers, please send the details to Phyllis Oberman care of Sixtyplusurfers to:

Please mark your email favourite art gallery and museum for Phyllis Oberman's column.

  Full Steam Ahead
       at Blists Hill
   Victorian Town

Steam locomotive at Blists Hill Victorian Town

Discover how the Victorians harnessed steam to power their engines and other machines on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th August, when Blists Hill Victorian Town, near Ironbridge, Shropshire will be ‘in steam’.

The weekend will provide a rare chance to get up close and personal with an eclectic collection of Victorian steam powered machines, all of which will be in their full working splendour. The steam weekend is being held as part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

The town’s replica of Trevithick’s 1802 Coalbrookdale locomotive will be running; the original is believed to be the world’s first steam locomotive. Other Museum engines in steam will include ‘Billy’, a fantastic 1903 Wallis & Steevens road roller, the Merry Weather fire pump and the Fielding oil engine as well as portable and ploughing engines.

The impressive Blists Hill Ironworks steam hammer will also be in operation as well as the two ironworks engines; sometimes known as ‘The Woods Engine’ the large forge mill engine features a 27 tonne fly wheel.

In addition, there will be a variety of special guest engines, both large and small, around the Town throughout the weekend. This includes narrow gauge steam locomotive, Number 85, owned by the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway.

Number 85 was one of a fleet of thirty-two 2-6-2 tank engines made for export to the Sierra Leone Railway by the Hunslett Engine Company of Leeds. Although it was built in 1954, the design dates to 1898 and so is in keeping with the late Victorian setting of Blists Hill.

The locomotive narrowly escaped scrapping in 1975 when the railway closed but was repatriated from West Africa by the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway where it entered traffic in 1978. It is currently touring the country as a static exhibit before returning to the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway for major repairs.

Younger visitors can follow a fun self-led family trail around the Town, take part in lessons in the Victorian School House and have a go on the Victorian Fairground.

Victorian Fairground at Blists Hill

Over at Enginuity in Coalbrookdale enamelling, pewter casting and paddleboat making workshops will take place between 10.30am and 3.15pm on different weeks.

Between 7th August and 13th August, you can decorate copper key rings using enamel beads and watch as they are fixed in place using high temperatures in a mini-furnace, while from 1st to 6th August, or 14th to 20th August, you can try your hand at making a pewter medallion to attach to a key ring. The paddleboat making sessions will be held from 21st to 31st August.

Visitors to Coalport China Museum can gain inspiration from the bottle kilns then use their creativity to sculpt a model from air-drying clay to take home. The drop-in sessions will take place between 11am and 3.30pm every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Young artists can also decorate ceramic money boxes or fridge magnets, and paint china flowers, every day throughout the summer school holidays.

Make clay models at Coalport China Museum

Open 10am to 4.30pm Blists Hill is one of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. A great value Annual Passport Ticket allowing unlimited entry into all ten museums costs £25 per adult, £20 for seniors, £15 for children under 16, £68 for a family of two adults and all their children and £50 for a family with one adult; under 5s free (terms and conditions apply).

Passports can also be bought online in advance saving 10% and individual entry tickets are available at each museum. Activities and workshops vary day-to-day and some carry an extra charge.

The Gorge is easily reached via the M54 motorway exiting at Telford junction 4 or 6.

For further information visit the Ironbridge website at

Or call the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre on 01952 433 424.

Retirement & Hobbies

Jenny Éclair Hosts
Great British Sewing Bee Super Theatre

Jenny Éclair

Comedian, writer and TV personality Jenny Éclair is to host the 1,200-seat Super Theatre at The Great British Sewing Bee Live, the UK’s most exciting new dressmaking and sewing event.

Jenny was the guest host of TV’s first ever Sewing Bee Celebrity Special in 2014 in aid of BBC Children In Need. A keen stitcher, she enjoys tapestry and is involved with Fine Cell Work, the social enterprise that trains prisoners in needlework. Sewing even features in her fiction writing in ‘A Slight Alteration’, a dark tale about a seamstress which is part of Listening In, a short story collection by Jenny Éclair based on the BBC Radio 4 series Little Lifetimes.

“I don’t have space for a sewing machine,” she says, “but I’m in awe of people who can do things like make curtains. When I was at school, I bailed out after making an apron which took an entire term.”

At The Great British Sewing Bee Live Super Theatre (in association with, Jenny will host two live shows a day featuring Sewing Bee judges Patrick Grant and Esme Young and contestants from past series. Patrick and Esme will be sharing some of their top tailoring and dressmaking tips and offering a unique glimpse behind the scenes of the Sewing Bee.

Then it’s time to experience the thrills, tension and excitement of a sewing room challenge as brave members of the audience and former contestants come together to put their sewing skills to the test live on stage.

If you enjoy sewing and would like to take part, you can apply to enter The Great British Sewing Bee Live Super Theatre live challenge by clicking on

Applications close on 21st August 2017.

The Great British Sewing Bee Live takes place at ExCel London from 21st - 24th September 2017 and is a must for everyone with a passion for dressmaking, tailoring, fashion and textiles. The event features over 250+ workshops (in association with Vlieseline and Milward by Groves) and demonstrations (in association with The Sewing Quarter), dressmaking drop-in clinic (in association with Daylight Company), a dressmaking fashion catwalk (in association with Vogue Patterns), garment and vintage galleries (in association with Kennet & Lindsell and The Fashion and Textile Museum), and shopping with over 150 dressmaking and sewing suppliers under one roof.

Tickets are available to buy from the website at

Or by calling 0844 581 1318. Advance tickets cost £16.50 in advance (concessions £15.50) with a wide selection of options available.


Advance tickets for the Super Theatre cost £5.00 (Standard) or £8.00 (Premium).

 Older People Showcase
     Skills at GrandFest


Older people showcase their skills at GrandFest

Thousands of visitors recently descended on Spitalfields to celebrate London’s unique craft festival, GrandFest. Hosted by older people’s charity, Royal Voluntary Service, the festival, now in its third year, celebrates older people and the heritage skills they have to share with the younger generation.

The skilled GrandMakers, all aged over 70, hosted a series of masterclasses from bread making to crochet and basket weaving to woodturning to share their fountain of knowledge and inspire others to pick up a hobby. The fun and interactive masterclasses took place in various shops, cafes and museums including the Geffrye Museum, Hanbury Hall, The Ten Bells, AGA,

The most popular masterclasses were cider making, woodturning and quilting. Thousands of people attended the event at Spitalfields market in east London.

77 year old GrandMaker, Clive Lillow says, “It is very important to pass on the older traditional skills that are disappearing. GrandFest was a huge success, and it was great to share my passion for bread making onto the younger generation. My Great Grandma was a big commercial baker in Wales and I like making bread the same way she made bread. I hope to continue passing on my skills in the future.”

Clive Lillow shares his passion for bread making

Royal Voluntary Service helps people to stay active and connected in their older age by providing a raft of clubs, activities and events, many of which are run by volunteers, where older people can enjoy their hobby or interest in the company of others. Previous research by the charity revealed the importance of continuing to maintain hobbies into later life. 69% of over 70 year olds practice at least two hobbies on a regular basis claiming this contributes significantly to their health and wellbeing.

Between masterclasses, in the GrandFest hub in Bishops Square, a variety of performer’s entertained festival goers on the GrandFest stage which included; the New Covent Garden Dance Orchestra, singing trio, The Belladonna Brigade, and talented swing dancing group, Swing Patrol.

Fiona Longhurst, Director of Royal Voluntary Service says, “Royal Voluntary Service launched GrandFest to celebrate the many skills possessed by older people and to highlight the importance of them continuing to enjoy and share them in later life. What a fantastic day GrandFest was and we were thrilled with the amount of people that turned out to support us. Our GrandMakers were delighted to showcase their heritage skills and hopefully their passion should inspire the younger generation to get involved in a new hobby.”

GrandMakers showcase their heritage skills and hopefully their passion should inspire the younger generation to get involved in a new hobby

The event was supported by McCarthy & Stone, the UK’s leading retirement housebuilder as part of their 40th anniversary year.

The Royal Voluntary Service is one of the biggest volunteer organisations in the UK, which supports over 100,000 older people each month. Through its army of 35,000 volunteers, the charity runs services such as Good Neighbours (companionship), Lunch and Dining Clubs, Exercise and Dance Classes and Books-on-Wheels, that help older people remain independent and connected with their local community. Royal Voluntary Service also provides practical support for older people who have been in hospital through its On Ward support and Home from Hospital services and via its network of retail shops and cafes.

Royal Voluntary Service aim to show how important it is keeping active in older age and by presenting Grand ​F​est, they highlight the importance of sharing skills between generations in spite of the growing skills gap in the country and celebrates the importance of our older people ​.

GrandFest is now touring around the UK​, with its next destination being Wales. Each event will follow in suit, to pass down heritage skills and crafts to the younger generations.

   Watch GrandFest video

   Click on arrow to watch

For further information about GrandFest click on

   Gladiator Games at
 London Amphitheatre


Female gladiator at Londinium Gladiator Games

A corner of the City of London will become Londinium once again this summer, as the fiercest gladiators return to the site of London’s only Roman amphitheatre.

Thirty years ago, the ancient remains of the amphitheatre were uncovered by archaeologists under the courtyard of the Guildhall. Now, a new gladiatorial stadium will rise above the site and battle will commence at the very place where Roman gladiators fought 2,000 years ago.

Eight thrilling afternoon and evening events will take place across the August Bank Holiday Weekend, Friday 25th - Monday 28th August 2017. To book seats in the arena and for more information, click on

Gladiators in full, magnificent battle dress will enter the arena before packed crowds and fight a series of powerful battles

Gladiators in full, magnificent battle dress will enter the arena before packed crowds and fight a series of powerful battles – intense clashes of steel swords, brightly decorated shields, spears and shining armour. The audience will become a big part of the action, taking sides and encouraging the emperor to save or spare each stricken fighter.

The Gladiator Games are performed by Britannia, the collective renowned for its work on the BAFTA-nominated CBBC programme, Horrible Histories and the celebrated Ridley Scott film, Gladiator. Each performance is the result of research into events in the 1st century A.D, using images drawn from Roman coins, paintings, sculpture and mosaics, surviving commentaries and archaeological finds.

The Gladiator Games are performed by Britannia, the collective renowned for its work on the BAFTA-nominated CBBC programme, Horrible Histories and the celebrated Ridley Scott film, Gladiator

Accompanying the main event will be a special Roman festival, which will bring the audience closer to life in Londinium, the largest city in Britannia from around AD50 to 410 and a major international port. Musicians will perform, Roman clothes and equipment will be made, crafts demonstrated and explained, and the Museum’s experts will invite the audience to examine and handle real Roman artefacts.

Below ground, close to the ruins of the amphitheatre, there will be a special small display of artefacts from the Museum of London that looks at representations of gladiators in Londinium. It features the skull of a Roman man who suffered substantial head trauma around the time of death, trauma that may have been sustained within the amphitheatre in gladiatorial combat.

Jackie Keily, Senior Curator at the Museum of London says, “It is always a thrill to return to one the oldest parts of the city and summon up something of Londinium life. The gladiator games would have taken place only two or three times each year in Londinium, so would have been eagerly anticipated. We’re looking forward to creating the Gladiator Games and hope you will join us for a memorable Bank Holiday weekend.”

The Games form part of a three-month festival that will celebrate the unique Roman heritage at the heart of the capital, hosted by the City of London Corporation. The festival, called Londinium, is made up of exhibitions, walks, talks, theatre, film and special events, taking place until 29th October 2017.

Visitor Information

The Gladiator Games form part of a three-month festival that will celebrate the unique Roman heritage at the heart of the capital, hosted by the City of London Corporation

Show dates and times:

Friday 25 August: Showtime 7pm (doors open 6pm).
Saturday 26 August: 12 noon, 3.30pm and 7pm.
Sunday 27 August: 1pm and 4.30pm.
Monday 28 August: 12 noon and 3.30pm.
Each show lasts for one hour. Doors open one hour before show starts.

Ticket prices:

Adult Concession Child (5-16) Under 5
Band 1: adult £22, concession £18, child £15, under fives are free of charge.
Band 2: adult £20, concession £16, child, £13, under fives are free of charge.
Family tickets available (between 2-6 people and must include at least one adult or concession, and one child 5-16 years of age)


The Guildhall Yard, off Gresham Street, London EC2V 5AE

Nearest tube: St Paul's, Bank, Moorgate (5 minute walk)
Nearest DLR: Bank (5 minute walk)
Nearest overground: Moorgate (5 minute walk)

Each show lasts one hour, with pre-show events and entertainments beginning an hour before each performance. Please note that this event aims to present a realistic portrayal of combat and, as such, contains scenes of simulated violence and bloodshed. It may not be suitable for very young children. Also, the event takes place in an open courtyard setting, so please prepare for the hot sun.

For more information please visit the website at

 Free Family Adventures
       for the Summer


Enjoy free family adventures with the Canal & River Trust

Grab your pirate hat, binoculars, wellies and a picnic and head for the top heritage gems along the country's beautiful waterways this summer. Rich in history, with colourful canal boats and wonderful watery wildlife – the Canal & River Trust has over 2,000 miles of canals and rivers throughout England and Wales to explore. Whether you want to spot a family of ducks or the flash of a kingfisher, watch boats travel across soaring aqueducts or through a flight of lock gates, try a fishing taster course or simply enjoy spending time together - the whole family can enjoy an adventure for free at one of the Canal & River Trust's historical treasures.

Across the country the summer waterway scene attracts hundreds of floating markets, fayres and music festivals – this year the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is set to host a major new waterway festival - the East London Waterway Festival on Monday 28th August 2017. Celebrating London's local rivers and canals the festival marks the completion of Carpenters Road Lock that will allow boats to travel from the Old River Lea to Waterworks River for the first time in 40 years.

The celebration will include a boat flotilla, dragon boat racing, canoeing, stand up paddle boarding, rowing, pedalos and free boat trips. There will also be live music and dance performances, children's activities, heritage walks, food stalls, craft beer and more. In the evening Nomad Cinema will be hosting a screening in the lock, of the film 'How we used to Live', introduced by the writer Travis Elborough. Easy to access by train, tube or bus. From central London take either the Jubilee or Central Line to Stratford. Take the escalators up to 'the Street' and follow pedestrian signs. Carpenters' Lock, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London E20 2ST.

There are plenty of other fantastic free events along the beautiful canals and rivers. For tranquillity, the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal is one of the most beautiful and peaceful waterways, following the line of the wooded Usk Valley. The navigable section of the canal runs 35 miles from Brecon to the Pontymoile basin. In addition to being able to enjoy Brecon Beacon's international designation as a Dark Skies Reserve by boat, it's also a haven for wildlife and a favourite with walkers. There are lime kilns and old workings from our industrial heritage along its length and it's a great place to spot buzzards, red kites, herons, dragonflies and, if you're lucky, otters.

Go Gongoozling - watch the boats go by

Why not go 'Gongoozling' - this is the traditional name for watching the boats go by! Find a flight or staircase of locks and you'll see plenty of boats navigate their way up and down hills through the power of water. Try the 30 locks at Tardebigge in Worcestershire or the staircase locks at Bingley Five Rise, in West Yorkshire. These flights are awesome examples of canal engineering and with nearby picnic spots they make a great beauty spot for all the family. Directions: Tardebigge, Alcester Road, Tardebigge, Worcester B60 1NF. Bingley Five Rise, Beck Lane, Bingley, West Yorkshire BD16 4DS.

For full details of all the destinations, events, trails and maps visit

  Top Tips for Taking
  Fabulous Photos on
   Your Smart Phone

Top tips for taking the best photographs on your smart phone

The holiday season is officially upon us, and our phones have made it easier than ever to capture special moments from our time away.

Andrew Cartledge, mobile expert at online mobile phones specialist, shares his five top tips on how to capture the most fabulous Instagram-worthy holiday photographs on your smartphone.

Get closer to the action

Get closer to your subject

Whether your mates are surfing the waves, or waving from the top of a theme park ride, the action may sometimes seem far away, Never fear, however, as smartphone camera tech has seen some terrific advances in Optical Zoom.

Get up close and personal to your subject matter with the iPhone 7, which offers 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom, letting you snap clearer photos from even further.

If your subject is only a stone’s throw away, the iPhone 7 also has amazing sensors which result in a larger depth of field, meaning that the phone is able to get a sharper focus of nearby subjects.

It’s all about the angles

Angles are just as important in holiday snaps as they are in selfies. Millions of people will have snapped the same iconic landmark as you, so to really make your holiday pictures something special get creative with angles.

The HTC U11 is a great phone for trying out different angles as the new squeeze technology allows users to capture pictures just with the squeeze of a hand – perfect for keeping steady in tricky positions.

The rule of thirds is great for capturing the full beauty of the scenery and subject matter all in one photograph too, especially when experimenting with angles. All iPhones have the grid mode too which can be turned on in settings, and allows you to line up the picture within the intersecting lines – which is great for shots where the subject is off-centre.

Be aware of your surroundings

Be aware of your surroundings

When taking photographs we always want the subject matter to be the focus of the shot. A great way to achieve this is by using the leading lines compositional hack.

Leading lines are used to draw the viewer’s eyes through the photograph to the main focal point, using other features in the surroundings e.g. using a walking trail to follow through to a mountain in the distance.

While editing tools and filters can be used to add a frame around a picture, sometimes the best way to frame your photos is to simply use the surroundings around you. The edge of a tree, a column or building, are all great ways to achieve a picturesque silhouette and emphasise your subject.

Let there be light

Lighting plays a pivotal role in the quality of any photograph and can be quite problematic when in a country where the sun is extremely bright. Phones such as the Sony Xperia XZ Premium have a brilliant HDR (High Dynamic Range) capability, meaning they are still able to capture high quality shots in bright conditions

For a cool halo effect around your subject, shoot them in the direction of the sun rather than away from it – not only does this add a nice effect but it also eliminates the issues of squinting from your holiday companion.

Make the most of features and editing tools

Smartphones now come with a wide range of great features to give photographs a professional feel and finish. The iPhone 7 Plus now has depth of field capabilities on par with DSLR cameras which allow users to be able to focus on the subject and blur the background – which can give the photograph a very professional look.

There is also nothing wrong with using a few apps to enhance the beauty of your photographs. Photo editing apps such as Snapseed have a multitude of filters and tools to improve the quality of your holiday pictures. But remember not to go overboard, as you don’t want to lose the true beauty of the memories from your time away.

Helpful websites

For further information, please visit the website at

    Volunteering With
  Beanstalk for a More
Meaningful Retirement

Volunteer with Beanstalk for a more meaningful retirement

A volunteering programme has been launched in London by the national literacy charity Beanstalk to help transition retirees into their post-work life.

According to a survey commissioned by Beanstalk, those aged 50+ are acutely aware of retirement and the challenges it may pose:

· 70% of people approaching the end of their working lives say they are worried about retirement.

· 21% worry about not having enough to do post-retirement.

· 23% worry about not having opportunities to interact with other people and other ages.

Beanstalk Reading Transition will help ease these worries and provide Londoners aged 50+ with a short-term volunteering opportunity with a real and lasting impact.

Being a Beanstalk volunteer makes helpers feel mentally active

According to a survey of Beanstalk volunteer reading helpers:

· 86% says being a Beanstalk reading helper helps them feel mentally active.

· 60% said they felt more motivated.

· 64% said they felt more a part of the community.

With Beanstalk Reading Transition, volunteers will provide one-to-one literacy support to four children, who are preparing for their own transition from primary to secondary education, four times a week for one school term. Together they will read, talk and play educational games to give children the intensive yet fun support they need to succeed.

Sue Cullen, a current Beanstalk reading helper says, “After leaving full time work I knew I wanted to do something completely different, that would engage my brain and be fun at the same time. I heard about Beanstalk and with a lifelong love of reading, becoming a reading helper seemed like the ideal fit.

You simply cannot overestimate the benefits of the one-to-one attention the children get in our reading sessions, and it’s thrilling to see their progress. In fact one child I supported would never read aloud in class, but after some time working together there was a complete transformation and she was very happy to read when asked, and did so confidently and without hesitation.”

Beanstalk Reading Transition is a win-win situation for all involved – it will help those aged 50+ ease into retirement, and it will also provide young children with the literacy skills and confidence to start secondary school all set to succeed.

Beanstalk is a national charity with over 40 years’ experience of providing one-to-one support to children in primary schools through trained volunteer reading helpers. Beanstalk Reading Transition is a new programme initially launched in London – made possible by Nesta’s and the Office for Civil Society’s Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund – to establish best practice in retaining the skills and experience of those aged 50+ for community-wide benefits.

To become a Beanstalk Reading Transition volunteer please click on the link below

Or call 020 7729 4087.

      Royal Voluntary
    Services Diaries
Wartime Women Online

Ordinary women volunteered for the Women's Voluntary Services during World War II

Over 30,000 pages of previously unseen diaries from the Second World War – hidden histories of a million wartime women – are being made available online today for free by the Royal Voluntary Service Archive & Heritage Collection.

These million ordinary women who volunteered for the charity, previously known as the Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS), played a vital role on the Home Front and worked tirelessly to help win the war. As well as sewing, cooking, knitting and helping their communities recover after raids, they learnt new skills such as extinguishing incendiary bombs, driving in the black-out and garnishing tens of thousands of camouflage nets; helping transform the way in which women were viewed by society.

The Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS), played a vital role on the Home Front and worked tirelessly to help win the war

The driving force behind the WVS was Stella Reading who founded the organisation in May 1938. A charismatic and persuasive speaker, she toured the country throughout 1938 and 1939 and told her audiences that “the greatest disservice a woman can do at the moment is consider herself useless.”

By the end of August 1939, over 300,000 women had joined the organisation and more than 1,200 WVS centres had been set up around the country. A dedication event will take place today, attended by Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador, Dame Patricia Routledge, at the Blue Boar Bar in Westminster, the former headquarters of the Women’s Voluntary Services.

To coincide with the event, Royal Voluntary Service is releasing 31,401 pages of diaries from 1938-1942 from more than 1,300 different cities, towns and villages across Great Britain. Written at a time when one in ten women in Britain was a member of the WVS, they tell the extraordinary stories of ordinary women and they are all available for free.

The Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS), played a vital role on the Home Front and worked tirelessly to help win the war

Inscribed on the UNESCO UK Memory of the World register in 2010 as one of the most important historical documents in the UK, these diaries have sadly remained beyond the reach of the public until now. The online archive, funded by a highly successful Kickstarter Campaign, allows anyone to access and search previously unpublished material, which describes how the largest volunteer organisation in British history supported ‘Civil Defence’ in the widest sense. To many they were the ‘women in green’, ‘the army Hitler forgot’.

The diaries give a fascinating insight into the ups and downs of daily life during the war. In Ventnor on the Isle of Wight the Housewives Section of the WVS sprang into action assisting the victims of a raid in 1942. One member whose house was damaged by a blast turned her stirrup pump on a nearby building and fought the fire caused by incendiary bullets. At the same time other members attended to bullet wound casualties in the road staunching the blood until medical help arrived. Elderly people suffering from shock were taken to safety from a badly damaged house and provided with hot drinks. In all the WVS was on duty for three days providing assistance to the homeless and the rescue and salvage teams.

The Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS), played a vital role on the Home Front and worked tirelessly to help win the war

Amongst all of the hardship caused by the war though humour and muddling through usually won the day as in the tiny village of Stone in Hertfordshire where one canteen organiser had to think on her feet. “The canteen has been very busy – a very pleasant change after months of inactivity. The organiser found catering a little difficult, one night the teas served numbered 28 and the next 430, and the cake permits were almost negligible. However, thanks to dried eggs, dried milk, and even powdered saccharin, the organiser, with a cookery book in one hand, managed to make what at any rate looked like cakes. She was very thankful that she didn’t have to eat any of the efforts herself.”

The Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS), played a vital role on the Home Front and worked tirelessly to help win the war

Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist says, “For the past year, we have been photographing tens of thousands of fragile pieces paper to enable us to share these remarkable stories online for everyone to enjoy. With the support of over 700 backers our Kickstarter Campaign raised over £28,000. Our initial plan was to cover the period from 1938-1941, but we’ve managed to include reports from 1942 as well, that’s over 31,000 pages available to everyone today.”

It is quite remarkable that Stella Reading managed to set up such a huge organisation in such little time. At the outbreak of war, the WVS had only existed for little over a year, but they had spent that year preparing for the worst. Her vision was that every woman could help and have a role to play in the defeat of Hitler and the defence of the nation. In 1939 she says, “We believe we belong to the finest country in the world. We also know that we must pay for everything we have. Surely we should pay for our citizenship by voluntary service”. Over a million women answered that call and their contribution to Britain’s finest hour and their embodiment of Stella Reading’s vision is encapsulated in these diaries.”

The Women’s Voluntary Services (WVS), played a vital role on the Home Front and worked tirelessly to help win the war

Anna Eavis, Curatorial Director at English Heritage says, “Stella, Lady Reading's pioneering work with the Women’s Voluntary Services has secured her reputation as one of the most remarkable women of the age. During World War Two she almost single-handedly recruited a million volunteers who provided all kinds of practical support to emergency workers, servicemen and bombed-out families throughout the darkest days of the conflict. After 1945 she sustained this extraordinary momentum, directing the volunteer effort to helping the sick, imprisoned and elderly; 'Meals on Wheels' and 'Home Help' visits were among the innovations introduced with great success. Her organisation survives today, as the Royal Voluntary Service.

“Lady Reading's energy, tenacity and compassion brought together an army of volunteers in the service of those who needed them most and established a model which continues to thrive. We recognise her considerable achievements with a blue plaque at her original WVS headquarters. The London Blue Plaques scheme prides itself on linking extraordinary people to the places where they actually lived and worked, so I am delighted that we can commemorate a building so important to Stella, Lady Reading and the Women’s Voluntary Services.”

Dame Patricia Routledge, Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador says, “The women of the WVS made great sacrifices for this country, but the breadth of their contribution has been hidden from view until now. We hope that in making their stories available to everybody, that the value of their contribution will gain the recognition it deserves.”

Dame Patricia Routledge, Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador says, “The women of the WVS made great sacrifices for this country, but the breadth of their contribution has been hidden from view until now. We hope that in making their stories available to everybody, that the value of their contribution will gain the recognition it deserves.

It will be an honour to see the remarkable Stella Reading commemorated by English Heritage with a blue plaque at the organisation’s original headquarters. A pioneer of the Women’s Voluntary Services, she was tireless in her efforts during the Second World War and it’s wonderful to see both her legacy and that of the WVS founding building recognised.”

Sorting out children's toys and nursery equipment as part of the Women's Voluntary War effort

Royal Voluntary Service is now one of the largest volunteer organisations in the UK, which supports over 100,000 older people each month. Through its army of 35,000 volunteers, the charity runs services such as Lunch and Dining Clubs, Exercise and Dance Classes, Books-on-Wheels and Good Neighbours (companionship), that help older people remain active and connected with their local community.

Royal Voluntary Service also provides practical support for older people who have been in hospital through its On Ward support and Home from Hospital services and via its network of retail shops and cafes.

View the digitised WVS diaries here