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Young folk gather in East End to learn heritage home skills from the over 70s

PUBLISHED: 13:47 06 June 2016 | UPDATED: 14:03 06 June 2016

Learning from the over 70s at the GrandFest in Spitalfields [photos: Vickie Flores]

Learning from the over 70s at the GrandFest in Spitalfields [photos: Vickie Flores]

Vickie Flores

Enthusiastic youngsters turned up to learn a thing or two about traditional home crafts from the over 70s like jam-making, sewing and weaving.

The elders running masterclasses in traditional home crafts for today's 'digital' generationThe elders running masterclasses in traditional home crafts for today's 'digital' generation

The GrandFest staged in London’s East End by the Royal Voluntary Service older people’s charity brought heritage skills to life yesterday in special workshops held in cafés and community halls at Spitalfields and Shoreditch and even at the Geffrye Museum.

The skilled GrandMakers, all over 70, held classes in breadmaking, crochet, basket weaving, woodturning, knitting and weaving—appropriate for Spitalfields where silk-weaving emerged with the Huguenots four centuries ago.

The GrandFest hub in Bishops Square had pop-up shops and a stage where performances like Wayne Sleep and a tea dance hosted by the New Covent Garden Dance Orchestra entertained the crowd.

Wayne’s late mother, Joan Sleep, was a stalwart of the old WVS which played a big part in her life.

Weaving masterclass at GrandFest run by Royal Voluntary Service appropriately in Spitalfields, where the weaving trade emerged in the 17th centuryWeaving masterclass at GrandFest run by Royal Voluntary Service appropriately in Spitalfields, where the weaving trade emerged in the 17th century

“So I feel I’m continuing family tradition lending my support to the charity,” Wayne said. “I’m a firm believer in staying active as you grow older—I certainly have no intention of slowing down.”

One of the aims was to pass on skills and knowledge that are in danger of being lost to the generation brought up on the internet and downloads.

Actress Felicity Kendal, an ‘ambassador’ of the charity, said: “There is clearly an appetite for learning craft skills from people who have been practicing these hobbies for years—all the things we can learn from them while keeping our minds and bodies active as we grow older.”

Mich Turner, the “Queen of Couture Cakes”, got stuck into a jam-packed masterclass on how to make a Raspberry Rose Ombre cake which inspired her audience.

Even the very young get to grips with traditional home skill of knittingEven the very young get to grips with traditional home skill of knitting

Rae Wilson, 75, a preserve maker, showed his class how to make jams, jellies and chutneys which he often cooks at the Royal Voluntary Service lunch club.

He said: “Cooking gives me pleasure to see others enjoying something I’ve made from scratch.”

The festival’s aim was to celebrate the heritage skills that youngster generations don’t seem to have—basic things like sewing and dressmaking, for example. Running the classes were those who’ve never lost those skills, none of whom will see 70 again.

They’re giving back something to society for all the help many pensioners receive from the Royal Voluntary Service, whose 35,000 volunteers support 100,000 older people each month.

The charity runs services such as ‘Good Neighbours’ for companionship, Meals-on-Wheels and Books-on-Wheels that alleviate loneliness and help older people. It also provides practical support for pensioners who have been in hospital through its ‘On Ward’ support and ‘Home from Hospital’ services and with its network of charity shops and cafés.

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