It seems that all too often, London news reports are full of stories of precious community assets such as pubs and social clubs closing their doors for good – often ousted by rent increases in favour of luxury developments.
Now a group of over 50s men, who call themselves “The Geezers,” have found their own way to fight back, with a saucy calendar and a campaign to highlight the capital’s disappearing pubs.
The Geezers club in Bow was initially set up by Age UK to provide “social activities for older men in the community who might otherwise be isolated”. It has since been running for 11 years and is now made up of 20 members.
Chief Geezer Raymond Gipson, 74, a retired councillor of 11 years from Bow said: “Age UK asked me and a couple others to go round in to the local area and talk to elderly men asking them to join Age UK as they do a lot of things for the elderly. At first there was a bit of hesitancy but after regrouping Age UK had the idea of starting a men’s club.”
Gipson said there were only around four members when they started the club and one of the original members Ted Louise, 86, and an ex-professional boxer from Old Ford, said: “I was pleased to start this club and it’s one of the highlights of my week.” Douglas Carnegie, 84 a retired chauffeur from Bow also said: “To come here once a week is a real change and it’s somewhere we can all go.”
The Geezers meet every week to take part in activities as a way of keeping fit and forming friendships. For instance, they recently joined the Weightlifting Club in Bethnal Green.
But one of the more interesting projects run by The Geezers is their ongoing “Where’s my Boozer Gone?” campaign, where members of the club posed nude for a calendar in to “kick-back against the closure of local pubs” in Tower Hamlets.
One member of the club, Tony Basra, 61, from Tower Hill said: “People couldn’t quite believe the history and the loss of pubs over time. The calendar which Louise Gridley, a visual artist, helped us with, has had a good reception which surprised us, as people have even bought a few.”
The campaign was set up to show the pubs that have disappeared over the years and what they have been turned into. Chief Geezer, Gipson, said: “When I was a kid, the pubs were seen as our community centres. It was where I met my friends and it was a place where you would meet people, but that tradition has since been broken which was one of the reasons why we started this campaign.”
Gipson encourages people to tell their stories of the time spent at pubs that no longer exist on their Facebook page and believes that the younger generation are less likely to visit pubs as there are other places to go and cheaper alternatives.
Gipson believes his campaign has helped make an impact. “We’ve won about 5 or 6 in Tower Hamlets where we have helped save pubs which sometimes means building houses on top of pubs,” he said.
The group continue to campaign to try and save the disappearing pubs, along with their usual activities to keep the club going.