The Geezers were invited by Age UK England to be the representatives of Appian Court Age UK East London’s Resource Centre at the QEII Conference Centre opposite Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 24th March 2015.
Geezer Barrie Stradling tells the story:
10 of The Geezers went to the Rally, Ray Gipson, Barrie Stradling, Tony Basra, Brian Godfrey, John Day, Douglas Carnegie, John McLaughlin, Charles Wiggins, Patrick Murray and John Griffin.
We made our way separately there but 8 of us arrived at Westminster Tube Station at about the same time, the event started at 11am, but we were asked to arrive early as Age UK wanted us to be included in a photo shoot on Westminster Bridge, samples of which you will find it this post.
Patrick Murray and John Griffin arrived at a different time to the rest of us, could not find us or contact us on Ray’s mobile so made their way to the Centre early than we did thereby missing the photo shoot.
The 8 of us who were there met up with the representatives from Age UK on the Westminster Bridge after Ray Gipson reached her on his mobile at 10am as requested, we crossed the road and met all the Age UK staff allotted to us outside Big Ben.
The photographers, which consisted of one professional Photographer , with all the staff members from Age UK there also taking their own shots for future use, also included Lucy Scholfield who we had invited along as she was one of the essential team for ‘Misbehaviour’ exhibition and ‘Where’s My Boozer Gone?’ projects featured elsewhere on thie OurBow site.
She wanted to take some photos of The Geezers holding up some cards with important Electoral phrases on them the photos were taken with The Geezers standing in two lines and individually holding up cards that she had handwritten, consisting of two sets of four cards that spelt out the phrases shown below.
One set of cards said ‘Don’t Vote Don’t Moan’ This was a phrase that I had suggested to her at a previous meeting and was to highlight that everyone should vote, because if they did not then they should not complain because they had done nothing themselves to avert whatever or whoever they were moaning about.
The other set cards made up a phrase that said ‘We Make Your Decisions’ This was to highlight that whoever was voted in makes decisions on our behalf, so again people young or old needed to vote, not wallow in apathy, then wonder why they did no like what was happening.
Lucy organised our lines and made sure the signs were A not upside down or B nonsensical. We were lined up in two rows, tallest at the back, with the River Thames to the side of us on Westminster Bridge with Big Ben and Westminster Abbey behind us.
After initially doing the photo shoot on our own we were joined for some additional shots by men and women from Age UK in Newcastle Upon Tyne. Near the end Age UK encouraged someone to take a selfie of the gathering, which Tony Basra volunteered for by holding up a camera aimed towards us on a pole-type thing. Age UK staff said that as this was a modern thing that would get us / them more attention.
The entire Photo shoot seemed to attract a vast amount of attention from passing coaches or pedestrians with many people stopping to take photographs of us all London and Newcastle men and women themselves. I suppose the Cards highlighted why we were there for as opposed to them thinking what are all those old loonies doing?
Not that I am being stereotypical but there seemed to be an awful lot of Japanese Tourists taking photos, we must be huge in Japan by now!
We finished the leg-aching photo shoot that lasted for around 45 minutes with us all raising our hands / arms celebratory above our heads whilst shouting out Age UK!.
It was a long session. Unfortunately we never had any make up artists to prepare us for the photos, which I am sure upset some of The Geezers, as our legs all ached as we had stood for ages. I think Thai Massage girls would have been preferable, sorry, moving on….
We finished only just before the event was due to start, so we all made our way around to the Crossing near the centre in to the Conference Centre, where we were signed in and were given name badges at the ground floor reception.
We then made our way to the first floor either in the lift or up some glass stairs, where we could get a much needed cup of tea, coffee or soft drinks and biscuits/ cake.
We then made our way up to the Hall on the fifth floor by lift and sat ourselves down around the hall in the seats provided. We had umpteen Age UK leaflets in our rows.
The Event started with the Age UK England representative sitting on a large stage on the far left, no political meaning to this phrase by the way!
Behind a desk with mikes in front, the stage was a long one with three large screens at the back in three sections, with the right hand side having a microphone equipped rostrum/ lectern for the politicians to do their presentation from and a empty stage section in the middle.
The start of the Event had Age UK ethos displayed across the screens, saying ‘A Great Place To Grow Older’ with their logo at the bottom, there was a brief introduction of the running order of the day that was to be Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, lunch, Labour, Green Party and finally UKIP. This intro was followed by a one very short film featuring older people from far and wide in the UK giving their opinions about what they felt the Governments Old Peoples priorities should be, things like the Freedom Pass remaining, good Pensions, and Advice on them and of course Care for the Elderly/ the NHS being supported.
The first speaker was late and the Video did not initially work properly so I thought well this is going to be great! It was eventually decided to put another very short film on based on exactly the same as the first. The film filled the gap until the first speaker entered the room near to where some of us were sitting.
It was Prime Minister David Cameron flanked by some cronies. He did his presentation, with the screens now saying who was presenting and from which party. He took questions from the gathering of about 200 – 300 in the Conference Hall, it was very evident that people from all over the country had been invited to attend the Rally.
The Q + A with the PM started with people holding their hands high and the Age UK person sitting behind the desk picking out who could ask a question, roving mikes were then delivered to them by Age UK staff around the hall. Cameron answered questions whilst standing in the middle of the stage. There were loads of very pertinent questions asked from the people in the hall, who represented either Age UK branches or older people groups, like Carers for example.
The Q + A was going very well, until David Cameron announced that there would be a couple of media people asking questions of the PM, there were calls of ‘it is not their meeting it is ours!’
David Cameron said that unfortunately it had been agreed that he should take two questions from the media, so he did one from Andy Bell from Channel 5 news and Steve Hawks from The Sun, who was widely booed when he was announced. David Cameron then left the stage to clapping.
I would just like to point something out at this juncture, later in the evening I received a link via Facebook to The Guardian, which reported on its front page David Cameron being barracked by older people at Age UK conference, as I was there I would just like to point out that the only time he was booed was when he announced that he was taking questions from the Media to finish his spot, still never let the truth get in the way of selling papers hard copy or digital!
The PM in fact responded to the Media booing by saying you have all been very polite, better than Blair got from the Women’s Institute!
The second speaker then entered the stage Paul Burstow MP of The Liberal Democrats, not David Clegg the leader. He did the same thing as David Cameron with the stage festooning his name, apart from the fact that he did his Q + A from the Lectern.
He also took questions from the floor again very pertinent subjects about older people he was also clapped as he finished his presentation.
It was then time for lunch and we all headed down to the first floor in the lifts, politely adopting the women first policy, yeah righto! No children there so we did not have to worry that all the food would be gone before we got in the lift! The lunch was served as a buffet on three large tables, it consisted of sandwiches, wraps and Fish and Chips served in a metal chip type pan insert, there was also cake and coffee, tea and soft drinks available.
There was a desk where people could reclaim their expenses. Age UK Twitter was also displayed on large screens, and we The Geezers were one of the photographs highlighted on it, stardom awaits!
The lunch was eaten with people taking up positions around the hall on stalls around tables, it was really good food and well presented.
After about three quarters of an hour people re-took their positions in the Conference centre.
The third presenter was Liz Kendall MP of the Labour Party, no Ed Milliband. She did the same format as the previous MPs with her name and political allegiance festooned on the screens. After her presentation she made her way to the table where the Age UK representative was sitting, but the mikes did not all work so she went back to do her Q + A behind the Lectern, everyone apart from David Cameron who took centre stage did this behind the lectern, where the microphone actually worked! She too was largely well received. Her questions, as for all the afternoon speakers, came from pre-received typed questions either read by Age UK representatives or people actually there in person from the hall.
Then came what I thought would be the best Comedian, the Leader of the Green Party who I had heard do the hilarious Radio Interview, Natalie Bennett!
She spoke with a completely green backdrop, which reflected her grasp of finances, she came across far better than I thought that she would, but her thinking was Narniaesque because she had a whole range of what sounded like great ideas, however conveniently did not mention how any of her through the looking glass world that the Greens wanted, whilst all highly laudable, was impossible to fund.
She was actually asked by someone a couple of rows in front of us where the money would come from, her answer was within the Politically Correct ethos as she said it should come from the large companies or mega rich people paying their requisite taxes, which they hadn’t, whilst this would obviously raise a large amount of money it would not even be a deposit on the Moon Base Alpha sized housing project that the Green Party proposed.
There was then a tea break which I did not go on.
None of The Geezers asked any questions in the Hall but Ray Gipson did a sofa talk outside of the main hall, which all the politicians had done. He did his on a coloured settee outside with the Green Party leader, it was a Q + A, based on her presentation, presumably filmed or recorded by Age UK, for their website or Twitter site, again his questioning was about funding the perfect world that she had said the Greens would do, again he got very little realistic information.
Following the refreshment break the hall refilled before the final speaker, some people had left due to their travel requirements, but the hall was mostly still well attended
The final speaker was ex Tory MP the unfortunately named UKIP MP Mark Reckless, not UKIP Leader Nigel Farage; one thought if I was him I would change his name to Eric so he could be announced at Ceremonies as Reckless – Eric, just a thought sorry!!
He did a Presentation with its content similar to the other presenters, near to the Tory ethos in truth, however he was the only one to say that funding would come from withdrawing from the EU, saving our enormous out goings to Brussels for use in the UK, and he also said that the UK should restrict open ended incoming immigrants policy and also to take back running our own country from the hands of the EU Brussels base, this raised cheers around the hall.
He also used a good phrase to highlight this I thought, he said he did not want the UK to just be a star on someone else’s flag!
He said that UKIP wanted to abolish the Inheritance Tax so that property was passed down through the family chain.
After he did his Presentation and Q + A the day finished about 3.40pm, before we left the hall the Age UK staff came along the rows and handed out material style bags with the Age UK name and ethos festooned across them, it contained Age UK literature and a free Age UK Pen.
As we left the QEII Conference Centre we were handed a string bag of what looked like coins, for example they were silver or gold stringed bags, with the sweets inside wrapped in silver or gold.
All in all I would say it was a very good, enjoyable well organised day, the QEII Conference Centre is a very impressive place, a very modern Glass and Metal edifice.
I don’t want to go in to Political shenanigans espoused by the 5 Parties presenters but instead focus on what they all specifically thought that older people wanted to hear:
They all focussed on the Triple Lock programme of Freedom Passes and TV licenses both remaining free and the Winter Payment to remain.
They also all spoke about:
– making the Social system a one source entity where people only had to go to one place to find out what help/ service was available to them, not have to go through hoops to get the funding or information.
– everyone wanted to ensure that there was no dismantling of the NHS; in fact they wanted to hear that there would be better funding for it.
– improvements were needed to the Care system, particularly regarding research in to Dementia/ Alzheimer’s, and ensuring that Carers are properly trained and paid a living wage, also that they are inspected to evaluate that they are performing their job correctly, also that the time limits set for care visits were made more logical and not as stringent as it currently is, where loosely stated the person being cared for does not have to decide if they wanted a cup of tea or to visit the toilet, because the visitor is only allotted a short time to visit people.
The Geezers left the Building and made their way back East.