Ernie’s story

New River Green Good Neighbours Scheme

“I’ve been coming here every week for five or six years now. It’s something to do. It keeps my head ok.”

Ernie talks as he watches over the stall he sets at 10am each Monday at the weekly coffee mornings on the New River Green estate. This week, he’s selling cookbooks, old clothes, and classic films. Any money he collects goes towards the teabags, biscuits, and craft materials that he and his neighbours share. “I’m recycling what people don’t want, and keeping things local”, Ernie says. “Some weeks I might sell loads, and other weeks nothing at all. That’s life.”

Ernie retired almost thirty years ago. He had worked for years in construction, before setting up as a window cleaner. “I loved doing that. Used to have some great chats with people all around here.” Retirement hasn’t been easy. Missing the conversations and anecdotes of being out and about, Ernie admits he has felt a bit down at times. He’s not alone in this. Loneliness is a common feeling for lots of older people living in Islington, and increasingly felt by the under 30s.

“I’m recycling what people don’t want, and keeping things local. Some weeks I might sell loads, and other weeks nothing at all. That’s life.”

Jerusalem (above), in her 20s and at college, has been volunteering at the coffee mornings for over a year. She started because she wanted to help local people, but also because she felt a bit lonely herself. “It’s a bit like a family here. I love hearing people’s stories, and they give really good advice.”

Nicky (below, right), a local resident who seems to know everyone on the estate, manages the Good Neighbours Scheme here, and is always inviting people (and animals) to come and visit. “We had dogs here a couple of weeks ago, next week people from the Angel Canal are coming over to find out some stories about the place. And Little Angel Theatre are here soon to give us a preview of one of their shows.” On this particularly wet morning, a bit of indoor exercise rounds off the session. For one local, these free gentle stretching sessions are helping to ease the discomfort that has set in following a stroke, suffered last year.

How did these coffee mornings start?

These weekly coffee mornings are part of something big that is happening every single day across Islington. The Good Neighbours Scheme has been run by local partners Help on Your Doorstep since 2013. In Canonbury, King’s Cross and Caledonian Road it reaches out to thousands of local people. Many of them give their time each week, starting football sessions for local children, yoga classes for the community, and getting together to do some gardening.

The year-round consistency of the coffee mornings is important. It’s a highlight of the week for many, rain or shine. For 87 year old Madge, it’s one of only two times a week she’s able to go further than the local shop. This particular Monday is coming to an end.

Between weeks, Nicky notices that more and more people are talking to each other. “You see people becoming friends, having a laugh. And not just in here. They meet up at the shops over the road, or just walking on the estate. There’s been loads more conversations happening in the last couple of years.” Ernie’s packing up now. He’s not sold much today. But because his table is a permanent fixture at these coffee mornings, there’s always next week.

You can help keep these coffee mornings going each Monday, and even help us launch them in more places in Islington.

  • Giving £30 per month could pay for local residents to take a summer trip to the seaside.
  • Giving £100 per month could pay for 6 months of weekly activities on the New River Green estate.
  • It costs around £33,000 per year to run this Good Neighbours Scheme and change lives every day on this estate. A substantial gift could help create a Good Neighbours Scheme near your home. Get in touch with us if you would like to discuss making a larger gift.

Help local people (and maybe even your neighbours) feel more at home in their community and give today.