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Pioneering club celebrates 50 years

PUBLISHED: 11:10 29 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:09 05 July 2010

The original building that housed Lowestoft's senior citizen club in Clapham Road

The original building that housed Lowestoft's senior citizen club in Clapham Road

IT started as a chance to offer elderly people friendship, companionship and a wide range of entertainment, and 50 years on the Lowestoft 60+ Club remains true to the origins of its foresighted founders.

IT started as a chance to offer elderly people friendship, companionship and a wide range of entertainment, and 50 years on the Lowestoft 60+ Club remains true to the origins of its foresighted founders.

The club, which was previously called Lowestoft's Club for the Elderly, has given comfort and entertainment to hundreds of pensioners over the years, and next month> users and volunteers from the past will join with those from today to celebrate its anniversary.

The Clapham Road club was the first centre to be built for old people in East Anglia and its overwhelming success over the last 50 years is a credit to the initial founders Lady Bridget Somerleyton and Miss Jeannie Mann.

Together with a band of willing helpers they were able to establish the club, after involving the whole of the town in their efforts.

The initial estimate for the centre was £6,000 but when it rose to £8,000, extra funding was needed and an innovative fundraising effort was hatched. Lady Bridget asked for everyone in the town to give a little to build a club for Lowestoft's senior citizens and many local employees signed up to a scheme donating a penny a week to the project.

“She said that generations to come would be grateful for this provision to the elderly, and she was right,” said Marion Reynolds, who has been a member for all of the club's 50 years.

The club, which initially founded in the headquarters of the Lowestoft Old People's Welfare Committee, was able to raise the funds thanks to the generosity of the community and on June 12, 1959 the club on Clapham Road was formally opened by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Harold Gillett.

“It was a marvellous organisation, run by volunteers who just turned up and didn't need reminding,” said Mrs Reynolds, 84.

“No-one understood how it worked like that. Out of nowhere they produced something that is still going 50 years on, and it is a marvellous, very happy place to be.”

The original building was demolished in July 1987 with the development of the Britten Shopping Centre, but a year later a new club was opened just yards away from the original premises.

In 2004 the club was renamed the Lowestoft 60+ Club as it recognised that many people of retirement age do not fit into the elderly category.

Today, the club, which is a registered charity, is open six days a week, offering free membership and a wide range of activities to the town's pensioners, including paintings, outings, bingo and bowls. It is still predominantly run by volunteers, but is able to employ a part time chef, secretary, cleaner and caretaker.

On Monday, September 8 the club will mark its 50th year with an open day for all members and volunteers past and present. Tea, coffee and cakes will be on offer, and there will also be a number of old photographs and newspaper cuttings documenting the history of the club, as members relive their past memories.


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