Composite image of volunteers and staff working on different aspects of the heritage project

Lewisham is the kind of place where people do seem to band together to get things done…1

Thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Voluntary Action Lewisham (VAL) has been able to celebrate its 50th anniversary and 50 years of community-led action in Lewisham with an exciting heritage project. The project has enabled us to celebrate the success of the past 50 years and to reflect on what has changed.

Project volunteers have gathered fascinating stories, from the 1960s to the present day, about the work of VAL and other local organisations and activists. The project has provided opportunities to visit archives, attend heritage talks and training in oral history, digital recording, interviewing and editing. Volunteers have put their skills into practice by interviewing some of the amazing people who have helped to make Lewisham the place it is today.

It has been inspiring for us to look back to see what local people have achieved and to remind ourselves of Lewisham’s long history of social action and activism. We have always been a borough that has been passionate about making change and blessed with people who want to make our community a better place.

Central to VAL’s story has been our support for community action led by individuals, groups and organisations and our desire to strengthen these groups so that they can deliver vital services and support for local people.

This project started in 2017 and coincided with a momentous year for VAL as it moved from its Catford home of 50 years to manage the Mulberry Centre in New Cross. We are developing the Mulberry Centre into a hub for social action, where people can get engaged in voluntary action and develop strong partnerships and new ways of working to improve our communities.

We have started a volunteering service to improve the access, engagement, support and promotion of all kinds of volunteering. Most importantly, we will be working in partnership with the sector to strengthen the voice and influence of voluntary action and activism in our borough.

It is our pleasure to share these edited interviews as they provide an inspiration to community-led action today, and also to VAL and its work in the future. We hope that others will look back in 50 years’ time and see the impact that local people and groups made to improve the lives of people in Lewisham.

Voluntary Action Lewisham was formerly Lewisham Council of Social Service (LCSS), Of the organisations listed as members in the Lewisham Council of Social Service (LCSS) 1972 annual report, the following are still members of VAL: Age Concern Lewisham (now Age UK Lewisham and Southwark); Bellingham Community Association (Now Bellingham Community Project); Deptford Action Group for the Elderly (DAGE); Deptford Fund (now the Albany); Goldsmiths Community Association; Grove Park Community Group; Multiple Sclerosis Society.

1 Rev’d Canon Charles Pickstone, interviewee, and VAL trustee