Celebrating its fifth anniversary, the 1152 Club, will be starting its 2019 autumn calendar of free fortnightly Friday talks for those aged 55+. From small beginnings the club has become a thriving group providing not just educational but also social support for its members.
Patrick Bourne, Assistant Community Curator, Kirkstall Abbey and Abbey House Museum, tells us more about the club, how it came to be and how it has gone from strength to strength.
What was the idea behind the club?
The idea originated in late 2014 when the team at Kirkstall Abbey were looking at what they could provide for the over 55 visitor. We decided to put on regular Friday morning slot and it was important the event should be free to those attending and with no prior booking, to attract as many people as possible.
Why is the club called 1152?
The name comes from the year in which Kirkstall Abbey was formed by Cistercian monks who had come from Fountains Abbey.
Tell us more about the early days of the club
We launched on 20 March 2015 with a fortnightly programme and initially attracted on average 15 people. Initial activities included an information session on Leeds Let’s Get Active Walks, Easter crafts and talks on the history of Bramley and transport through the ages. We alternated in-house events and invited guest speakers. After a few sessions it became clear that talks looking at history and heritage were by far the most popular choice on offer, though people enjoyed learning about a range of different subjects.
Therefore in summer 2015 the club established a regular talk programme. We have now heard over a hundred talks from scientists, historians, archaeologists, museum curators, authors, folk musicians and poets. Early word of mouth means we are very full every fortnight with up to 75 people.
Attendees come from all areas of Leeds and all backgrounds – not just retired academics but anyone with a genuine love of learning. Our members help suggest speakers, and under their own steam have organised their own expeditions and tours off site, when we have had summer breaks– for example to The Leeds Discovery Centre and the University of Leeds’ Public Art Trail or around Newlay and Kirkstall Forge areas. Many of our members are very good speakers in their own right and active in other projects. 1152 Club members have given talks on classic railway posters and cinema history, York Gate garden, Adel, Lawnswood Cemetery and family history.
We also try to help people become aware of other goings on in the local area and tie in our activities to wider programmes of celebratory months (eg Irish History Month,) or current exhibitions at our sister site, Abbey House Museum, and many curators from other sites have been invited to speak on everything from natural sciences. fashion and textiles and social and industrial history.
The group is as much a social gathering as a forum for learning and many close friendships have been fostered around the regular meet ups. This can be important as a fair proportion of 1152ers live on their own. Many of the members have told me verbally that they appreciate on a personal level the role the Club plays in combatting loneliness. Since our first year it has also been a tradition to have a sit-down Christmas meal and quiz (just for fun!) at a local eatery – it was one of our members that kicked off the tradition on her own initiative, and now it is as much a fixture as the Club itself.
On 16 August celebrated the club celebrated 100 sessions with cake. We offer tea, coffee, biscuits, a warm welcome to everyone and a promise to be entertaining and educational. Our funding comes through Arts Council England and Leeds City Council and we do not charge, but individual members help cover tea and coffee.
Members of the 1152 Club have also progressed on to help in other parts of Leeds Museums and Galleries e.g. three of our regular members are seasonal volunteer tour guides at Kirkstall Abbey, and four other members participated in an intergenerational dance based on Kirkstall’s history which was choreographed by local dance company Blood Memory Dance for the 2019 Kirkstall Art Trail.
One huge asset for the group has been the existence of a volunteer post for an 1152 Club helper. This position has been filled since 2016 by Sue. Her responsibilities include the practical tasks of helping setting the room up and tidying it, but also suggesting and booking speakers. I often say she is my right arm, Sue, who is also active in other volunteering across the city, has this to say about her role:
“I have a very full and busy life, but I love volunteering because it adds to my well-being and satisfaction in life. As a retired person, I enjoy being part of the workforce again, using my skills and qualifications, and giving back to the community. I find the work interesting, and enjoy meeting lots of people, taking part in various activities and feeling useful. I hope that as long as I am physically and mentally able, that I will be able to continue doing voluntary work.”
With our Arts Council funding in place until at least March 2022, we hope to go from strength to strength, and to still be here celebrating our 200th session in five years’ time.
What’s coming up?
13 Sept He, she, they? the changing face of children’s fashion
27 Sept The evolution of administration, medical practice and social policy in the 19th Century Workhouse Hannah Gosling
11 Oct New thoughts on Britain’s war resisters, 1914-1918 Cyril Pearce
8 Nov The Gunpowder Plot Eric Jackson
Teas and coffees are served at 10am, talks commence shortly afterwards. No booking required, just turn up 10-11.30am, Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre
The 1152 Club, Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds , 10am -11.30am every other Friday up until 6 Dec
Tel 0113 3784079 Email: Kirkstall.Abbey@leeds.gov.uk
check website by searching ‘1152 Club’ at https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/kirkstall-abbey/ or ring 01133784079 for individual session details
Thanks Patrick for telling us about the group it looks like great fun.