Real-world drop-in closes, virtual drop-in starts soon

Meeting room at Whitmore Community Centre - no people, tables and chairs stacked

Real-world drop-in closed, not suspended

Our last session was 2 March. The 9 March drop-in was suspended. Today we felt that it was unsafe even for a podcast session with only six people in the room — so that had to be cancelled too.

We cannot tell you when we will be open again.

Virtual drop-in, virtual learning

The whole point and purpose of the drop-in project is real-world social inclusion — explicitly counteracting the social distancing of the virtual world. But now we have to counteract the really serious effects of social distancing implied by the COVID-19 crisis.

So we are going to fast-forward existing plans to offer an online drop-in and online learning to older people who are isolated at home. That might be all of us soon.

Many of you already have the basic resource — a GSuite account. More than 100 people have email accounts at seniors.org.uk, bold.org.uk, szs.net or agewell.org.uk. Those are all GSuite accounts, and they all provide immediate access to an online meeting room app named Meet. We could add about 450 more, and it’s all free for us.

If you have a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or a desktop computer that is not too old — and an Internet connection at home, you should be able to use GSuite Meet. We expect that many of you will need help while you are using it, so we will recruit volunteers to join the sessions.

The virtual drop-ins will be group events, not conversations between 2 people — so you can expect to see familiar faces and hear familiar voices.

We still have many details to work out, and we still don’t know how we can include digital beginners and people with no Internet at home.

The 24/7 Virtual Drop-in

Everybody with one of the GSuite accounts has already received a link to the first experimental online drop-in. We are still testing it, so nothing much will happen for a few days. The information you need will be in your email and messages soon.

Our response to the COVID-19 coronavirus

Normal drop-in has been suspended

(Edited after posting to remove references to Whitmore Community Centre, which does not figure in our current plans).

After the 2 March session, we suspended the weekly drop-in because Internet access had stopped — but we were expecting to return quite soon.

But on the following day, we realised that Internet access had become irrelevant. We can’t restore the normal drop-in until the COVID-19 crisis is over.

That doesn’t mean we can’t do anything — but we would have to make substantial changes to ensure your safety. Here are some of the ideas and principles we are working on …

COVID-conscious etiquette and safety

  • High-visibility reminders of current guidelines and information — on the walls and on our screens.
  • Wash hands before entering or re-entering the meeting room, and again before leaving the building.
  • Keep at least 2m from every other person.
  • Don’t come if you feel the least bit unwell.
  • Don’t come if you live with, or care for, other people who are more vulnerable.

The equipment we use

  • Many people bring their own devices. We can insist that they should be clean — and not used by anyone else, not even volunteers.
  • Most people also use our laptops. We can ensure that each laptop is used by only one person during each session and cleaned after use. After that, they go back into the cupboard, and are not touched again until the following week.

Transport

  • Possibly the greatest risk.
  • Don’t use public transport unless you really must — and never during the rush hour.
  • We can adjust our opening and closing hours, eg- to finish at 4 instead of 5 pm.

Keeping in touch with you at home

  • We are giving a lot of thought to this, but there are no easy solutions.
  • We have email addresses and phone numbers of nearly everyone who has been to the drop-in recently — that’s you and about 300 others. So maintaining contact is not the main problem. Most people want real-world face-to-face help or support. That’s our speciality.
  • However, remote and online communication is well within our technical competence — and we expect to have at least one workable proposal soon.

Workshops instead of drop-in

  • We know there is a demand for short courses and workshops. We haven’t been able to meet it because the demand for open drop-in has been so much greater.
  • Last time we arranged Monday afternoon workshops was October 2019 (Google Photos 1 and Google Photos 2). We were instantly oversubscribed — but we were in control of the numbers. All we would have to do is reduce the maximum from 15 to 8, and repeat to prevent disappointment.

Audio activities

  • We haven’t done podcasting or Internet radio for a while — simply because we have been far too busy with the drop-in.
  • Both are suitable for small groups of people, and explicitly require you not to handle the equipment.

Your ideas, your preferences

It could be a very long time before we can get back to how it was last week. But what do you think we could do next week, next month, or the remainder of the year? If you  are a regular drop-in user, you probably know how to contact us quickly. The details are also on our Information page.

Lydia’s Yam Soup – reheated

This episode is part of a series of pilots for an updated Talking Food Radio.

Original Talking Food 2012 description – “Hackney food guru Lydia Bachelor leads a discussion about healthy eating, nutrition, shopping, markets, cooking, recipes – and any other food experience and knowledge that we would like to share”.

It was not a radio production. It was a live event, streaming what would have happened anyway – and considerably longer than this edited version.

Budget: zero.

Production values: everything must be done by older people (even if the result is below BBC standard), use only the most basic equipment (available to everyone), the background hubbub is just as important as the voices close to the microphone (the social context is vital).

Message: “If you are listening to this – STOP. Turn off your computer NOW. Please accept this invitation to join us in the real world – we have food for your body, mind and soul – and none of it is digital. Real World First!”

Identifiable voices: Ayo, Benediccta, Beverley, Bola, Chitra, Gabriella, Josh, Lydia, Myrtle, Paula, Pauline, Peter, Rick.

Recorded 10 May 2012 at ‘The Lawns’, Matthias Rd, Hackney. Remixed June 2019.

The Lawns was a lively (but acoustically-challenged) computer and social centre for older Hackney residents.

The League of Meals was a fun project that did not survive contact with reality.

That sweet potato

This episode is the first of a series of pilots for an updated Talking Food Radio. We used the same very basic equipment as the old radio show, and the same approach: conversation first, technology last. As the series progresses, we will adapt the recording method to suit the participants as well as the final goal – which requires much improved sound quality.

The pilot podcast track is a sequence of snippets from the 90-minute live recording. The discarded sections were generally the best conversation, but too noisily enthusiastic for the podcast medium.

The voices belong to: Brian, Grafton, Hyacinth, Ian, Mary, Nuala, Patricia and Rick.

Recorded 26 April 2019 at Whitmore Community Centre, N1 5NU.

Outro credit: excerpt from Horizontal Drift, Jared C Balogh – https://www.jamendo.com/track/1122560/horizontal-drift

Can you remember 1989?

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Then: Waiting by the phone for your call. Now: You're always with me. #ForTheWeb
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