It’s only week four and it feels like it has been going on forever; this gentle hum of strangers turning into acquaintances; civic space being re-colonised by its oldest citizens. A café in a local arts venue with a piano dragged out into the centre of the room. There are people straining to read the words above the keyboard but it’s not necessary for this ancient script. It’s what we humans do, gossip, tell stories, sing, conjure objects out of whatever is to hand: paint, weave, sculpt and, here in London, drink tea.
Meet Me at the Albany is the love child of two companies (Entelechy Arts and the Albany) coming together, seduced by the simple question: what if you were old, lived home alone, were getting depressed and lonely, what if you could go to an arts centre instead of a day centre? What if this was an ordinary and natural way of being able to connect with, and contribute to, things going on just around the corner, or a short ride away from where you live?
Imagination, as the Brazilians say, at the service of the people. In the doing we are suggesting an intersection of need and idea; stitching the language of the natural, creative and spontaneous into the formal weft and warp of adult care provision, hospital discharge teams, occupational therapists.
It’s going to take courage not to blink, to hold onto the possibility of the un-prescribed, the open form: belonging to everyone, belonging to no-one.
Last week, Jeremy Hunt the government Health Secretary spoke of the forgotten million: the old and chronically lonely. Back in the Albany café, around the piano, the improvised Aretha Franklin moment is rising to a crescendo. Everyone is singing: “You make me feel…”, here now, not so lonely and maybe, deep down, feeling not so old. Perhaps, Minister, this is one small way for us to remember each other. Watch this space.