On your doorstep
We speak to Patricia Iliffe and Rosalind Goodman
In this special feature we’ve teamed up with the Centre for Ageing Better to some meet some inspirational older people who are active in their communities. Often we meet people at home – on their doorsteps. However this month, we have stepped over the threshold of the Leeds Playhouse to find out more about the Heydays project. On arrival at Heydays you’ll be greeted by Ros and Patricia, who volunteer to run the reception desk. We spoke to the effervescent pair and discovered why they love the Playhouse so much. You can watch a short segment of the interview or read the full interview below.
Leeds Playhouse have been running Heydays for over 30 years. Every Wednesday, the theatre opens its doors to a huge group of people aged over 55. Members get involved with all sorts of creative activities. The atmosphere is vibrant, noisy and energetic. Part of the reason why the project is so successful lies with the greeting you get by the women on the reception desk. Ros and Patricia are friendly, welcoming – and they’re always laughing. But behind the humour, both of them are serious about community. Heydays is a community that offers creativity, connection and care. Ros and Patricia explain more below.
Who are you and what project are you involved with?
Ros: I’m Ros and we’re at the Leeds Playhouse. I’ve a member of Heydays that has been going for over 30 years. I’ve been coming to the Playhouse for about 18 years. Heydays is for the over 55s. We have a reception desk on a morning and I man that desk, making sure that everyone’s okay when they’re coming in. If they need any questions answering, we’re there to help them. And basically, I do that until lunchtime.
Patricia: My name’s Patricia and I come to Heydays at the Leeds Playhouse every Wednesday. I just love it. I work on the desk with Ros, meeting people. We always like to make people feel at ease when they come. And happy. We’re always happy-faced. And making a noise with laughter. It’s just fun. It’s a just a relief in life from the humdrum. It’s something totally different. I love it!
Who comes to Heydays and what do they do?
Ros: It consists of people who want to do Artwork (it might be painting, drawing, needlework); Talk Talk; Play Reading (in which you can all read part of a play each); Singing (I just love the singing); Drama. Quite different things.
Patricia: The people that come to Heydays are 55 and upwards. It’s for everybody over 55. Whatever they want to do. Even if they just want to come and chat, they can come and chat. It’s a social gathering. It’s just a nice place to be. I joined, it’s not long ago, about 5 or 6 years ago. I just want to come every Wednesday because we go home laughing in the car, about things that have happened. It’s a happy feeling, it’s a lovely atmosphere.
How did you get involved?
Ros: When I first came to the Playhouse, which was many moons ago, I didn’t think it would be for me. It was a friend who said to me, “You’d love Heydays.” I said, “Why would I like Heydays?” She said, “Well, you like singing, you like meeting people. I’m sure you’d like it. So I did. And I’ve never looked back.”
Patricia: It was Ros’s daughter; [she] got in touch with my daughter – and that’s how it all started. Ros gave me a ring and said, “Come and join us.” And I did. And, like Ros, I’ve never looked back either.
Why is community important to you?
Ros: I live in a small village and it’s big on community. There are all different groups going off in the village. You don’t have to be lonely. It just gives you a chance to see people and pass the time of day with people. If anybody’s got any worries, they’ll maybe not see anyone else, but they can share it with you. This is why Heydays is such a big deal. Because it’s community. First and foremost, it’s community. It’s not only coming on a Wednesday and joining in the different activities you can do, but Heydays plays a big part in the outside community. Not long ago they did the International Piano Competition at the Town Hall. There was a memo came round asking if any of us would like to join and basically dress a piano up! I mean, that is not me, at all. I’m not arty. But I was asked to go along and Pat came with me. And the piano that’s up there [in the Playhouse foyer], the one with the graffiti on, is what we did. And we’re so, so proud of it. But that’s not the only thing; there are other opportunities you can do here.
Patricia: It was amazing! Both of us decided we’d do it. I coaxed Ros to come along, I said, “Even if you just come along and watch.” But she joined in. It was so funny and exciting, something we’d never, ever done, squeezing paint. We dressed in boilersuits. It was just amazing.
Why do people come to Heydays?
Patricia: It fills a gap in your life. Especially people who are lonely or on their own. If people come in who are upset about anything, we always have a smile and a laugh. We change their attitudes. They say they like seeing us. We’re familiar to them. It’s a brighter look to life. There is more to life than sitting at home watching television. This is a massive thing to come to and we love it. I mean, I never used to go to the theatre. Very rare. We’ve come quite regular now and enjoyed performances together. It’s amazing, it’s just so nice.
Ros: I quite agree with Pat. It’s a very, very friendly atmosphere. You can come to the theatre and watch all the shows. You do see a lot of the performers, the actors, coming in and out. You think, “Ooh, I’ve seen them on the telly!” I’d never been to the theatre. I thought, “It’s for posh people, it’s not for me.” And I absolutely love it. The people have come here have wonderful stories to tell.
The people that do come here, the majority are young at heart. They get on with life. But if they do have a bad time, there’s always somebody there that will listen. Sometimes you can see somebody who normally comes in and they’re laughing and joking. And they come in with their head down. Me and Pat will say to one another, “She’s not right.” We’ll discuss it and we might approach them, very gently, and say, “Is there anything bothering you?”
How did it feel to get Heydays meeting in person again?
Ros: I couldn’t wait. I was very apprehensive. But it’s not going to control me. Covid is a terrible, terrible thing that we’ve had to put up with – and we’re still putting up with. But it’s not going to tell me I can’t go out. Obviously, you’re careful, wear your mask and take all the precautions. But I’m going to live my life.
Patricia: I couldn’t wait. I didn’t do any Zooming, it just wasn’t for me. 2 years is a heck of a long time. And we’ve all got 2 years older! Part of your life was closed and it’s so open now. It’s great.
What do you love about Leeds?
Ros: For me it’s Leeds itself. It’s the town. I come in about twice a week. I’ve seen a lot of change in the years that I’ve been coming into town. There’s an awful lot of things that are not there any more. Me and my husband, we often say, “If Grandad was here now, he wouldn’t be able to find where he’s going.” There’s an awful lot of things that Leeds offers you. There’s culture, there’s theatre, there’s shops, there’s nightlife: a very big amount of variety.
Patricia: I was born in Leeds and I’ve always stayed here. I live in the next village to Ros. It’s a small village but it doesn’t have the community that Ros’s has. So this [Heydays] is big for me. When I was younger, as Ros says, Leeds was different. Totally different. I don’t often come into Leeds now, only to the Playhouse. Only because I don’t like wandering around! I wouldn’t go anywhere else. I like being here.
What’s the best thing about getting older?
Patricia: I’m not! I’m not! I am as I am. When I’m sat down talking to you, I’m a young person - I’m not an old person. It’s only when you stand up and you think, “Ooh – ahh!” [she clutches her back] I am getting older, but what’s in a number, what’s in an age? It varies so much. Age doesn’t matter. You are you. You are an individual.
Ros: I agree with Pat. Age is in your mind. We’re lucky in that we don’t feel old. We feel young. We’re young at heart. I work with a few communities in the village I live in. And if might be only 4 or 5 years ahead of me, but the deterioration… I think to myself, “I have to grab it now, while I can.” And do what I can - because you don’t know what’s round the corner.
What would you say to readers who are looking for something to do on Wednesdays?
Ros: Get yourself to Heydays. Get yourself down and have a good laugh. Have a good sing-song. All I’d suggest to people is just to give it a chance. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. But please come and give it a chance.
Quick Q & A with Patricia and Ros
What’s your favourite place in Leeds?
The Playhouse! It is! We look forward to coming every Wednesday. I pick
up 2 friends en route and we’re always early. Because I park in the disabled
parking and if we don’t come early we can’t get parked!
I like the Civic Hall. But I do like the city centre of Leeds as a whole. The variety is second to none.
Who are your heroes or heroines?
My parents. They had very good morals and standards. My father was a disciplinarian – not too strict. But you knew you had limits.
The same. My parents. You had discipline and morals.
I look up to the people at the Playhouse. The kindness is second to none. You think to yourself, “How can they be so nice?”
When did you last laugh?
Just now! But crying – I try not to do that. If I’m at home on my own and feel a bit sad, I turn the sound up on the television. I just keep going. Just so I don’t get down. Because when you go down, it’s difficult to get back.
We have a good laugh here every week. People tell us to keep it down! It’s contagious! I’m not a crying person, but there’s two new Christmas adverts that really set me going! Crying at adverts!
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Life! I’m alive! I’m grateful I’m up and can live another day!
For me it’s the heating going off! Ha ha! But life’s good. It’s what you make of it.
Heydays at Leeds Playhouse are always looking for new members.
If you are aged 55 or over and are interested, contact Machteld De Ruyck on 0113 2137296 or find out more at www.leedsplayhouse.org.uk
Thanks Patricia and Ros
Thanks to the Centre for Ageing Better for sponsoring this feature.
The Centre for Ageing Better has a vision for society where everyone
enjoys later life.
Find out more about the great work they do at www.ageing-better.org.uk