Jacksons Lane reach out to the elderly during lockdown

JL Circus quarantine sessions juggling with Dan Rose

JL Circus quarantine sessions juggling with Dan Rose - Credit: Archant

The Highgate arts centre is running creative Zoom lunches for socially isolated pensioners and posting circus skills workshops online

Circus performer and Jackson's Lane associate Nikki Rummer performs on her barge near Wenlock Basin

Circus performer and Jackson's Lane associate Nikki Rummer performs on her barge near Wenlock Basin Islington - Credit: Archant

Shuttered arts centre Jackson’s Lane is continuing its work with isolated pensioners and disadvantaged youngsters during lockdown.

The Highgate venue is also offering bitesize circus skills workshops and online performances by its associate artists - including one from a boat on the Regent’s Canal.

The centre, which specialises in contemporary circus, has furloughed several staff includin gArtistic Director Adrian Berry as part of their survival strategy; “one of the measures to ensure we can reopen in a positive way,” says Executive Director and joint CEO Monique Deletant.

She explained they were building on existing contacts to reach socially isolated older people in Highgate. Every Christmas, volunteers serve Christmas lunch to around 100 older and disabled neighbours, and throughout the year they offer arts-based workshops and activities for the elderly in partnership with Homes For Haringey.

“Our particular focus during lockdown has been on those in our community who are more vulnerable, to reach out to the 100 who come for Christmas lunch,” she said.

“We rang around to check they were alright and put them in touch with other providers or our lunch volunteers to do shopping for them. It’s heartbreaking that some hadn’t spoken to anyone for weeks and didn’t know they weren’t meant to be going out.”

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There are weekly Zoom lunches for the elderly, who live in a mixture of care homes, sheltered accommodation or in the community, and a befriending scheme where volunteers call isolated older people living in local authority accommodation.

“Part of it is the social aspect so we run an uplifting creative Zoom lunch where they can make their own content - non-Covid - we’ve had lockdown lyrics and poetry so far.”

In-house performers JL Circus are running live video sessions with youngsters in Wood Green and Tottenham, and have posted circus classes online - both 30 minute workshops and three-minute shorts such as learning to juggle.

“It’s accessible for everyone to try their circus skills at home or there is JL Shorts for those who want their content more bitesize.”

And they have commissioned three artists in the UK and abroad to collaborate on Tilted Circus, an original online piece that will be spliced together into one show.

Associate circus artists are posting their activities too, including Nikki Rummer who is performing weekly from the top of her barge in Islington.

Deletant said Jacksons Lane may need to launch a fundraising campaign if closure goes on. “I won’t lie, it’s a challenging time,” she said.

“We’ve lost £115,000 worth of space hires, but we’ve been heartened by the 40percent who donated back their ticket price and Haringey have been incredibly helpful in helping us get the message out about what we are doing.

“While it’s too early to say when we might re-open, Jacksons Lane has been going for 40 years and has always been rooted in our local community.

“We are doing everything to achieve what we can for the local community and our artistic community and hope we are still able to be at the heart of things even if we can’t provide a physical space right now.”