Lydia Batchelor
Community / People

Local Life: Lydia Batchelor

Words: Steve Burdett Images: Nancy Sheridan
Published: Autumn '15

Lydia Batchelor has lived in Woodberry Down for over 20 years. Her passion for cooking and helping the older people in the community inspired her to run the Over 50s Lunch Club at the Redmond Community Centre. She is a self-employed caterer, a mother and grandmother, a regular volunteer for community projects – and something of a local inspiration.

What do you love about your community?

I love the mix of cultures all living together; the location, the ease of access to everything, such as the West End; and the people – the neighbours. It’s such a nice, pretty area. I’ve lived in the same place for over 20 years and have seen a lot of changes, especially now with the regeneration.

How did the Lunch Club get started?

It started at Newnton Close sheltered block, where we still do it on a Thursday. A couple of people from Manor House Development Trust (MHDT) came down for lunch and that was it! They wanted something similar at the Redmond Centre, so we agreed to do Tuesdays and got some funding.

Can you tell me a bit more about the Lunch Club?

It’s a service for the elderly or over-50s – the over-50s certainly don’t see themselves as being elderly! For £4.20 they get a healthy, home-cooked two-course meal and the opportunity to socialise with friends and neighbours – and even make new friends. We’re trying to develop it so that we’re able to deliver food to those whose mobility prevents them from making it to the Centre, or to transport them so that they don’t become isolated. We have introduced after-lunch activities such as board games, singing, a quiz and bingo to extend the day. I just want to get the word out and help the local people.

What kind of food do you provide?

There’s a variety. We do Caribbean: rice and peas, chicken – baked instead of fried. I put a lot of thought in regarding the diet and health of the people eating and encourage them to have lots of fresh and raw foods. They love a bit of fish at Easter time and once a month, normally on the last Friday, we have a roast. They usually remind me during the week before: ‘Don’t forget, roast on Friday!’

What’s your typical diner like?

The majority of people who attend are between their mid-60s and 90s. The oldest who comes along is 95, and he’s been coming since we started it. Some who don’t even live in the area make their way religiously here. One lady walks from Stoke Newington every week.

As a mother and grandmother, do you think there’s a lot for children to do in the area?

The Edge youth hub on Woodberry Grove has lots of things on for children between eight and 19 years old, the Redmond Centre usually has something on during the holidays and there’s the Woodberry Down Children’s Centre. I like the way the park area has been created and developed, with the outside activities for children.

Where does your love of cooking come from?

I come from a family of six girls, and we all took turns to cook for the family. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, learning dishes from other cultures and trying them out myself. I see cooking as a science, and I like experimenting and introducing people to new food. I just love the thought of someone being really pleased at the end of a meal I’ve cooked.

What volunteer work do you do in the community?

I volunteer at the weekend club for senior citizens in the sheltered block, organising things like day trips and weekly bingo. If there are other groups in the area putting on events I’ll ask if they need my help. People know I’m skilled in the kitchen but equally I don’t mind doing the washing up, serving tea and coffee, leafleting or anything like that. The Redmond Centre sometimes has things on so I’ll bake a cake, come down and do what they need me to. I muck in wherever I can.

Do you use the Redmond Community Centre yourself?

I go there to do some work or pop in to say, ‘Hi,’ and see what’s going on. Sometimes I just go along and make myself a cup of tea; it’s good to know I’ve got that space nearby.

What’s your favourite meal to cook?

Vegetable lasagna – I love it, and the response it gets afterwards. It’s an old Jewish recipe with loads of different vegetables.

Do you shop locally?

I go to the Woodberry Down Fruit & Veg Store on Seven Sisters Road for their fresh kale and coriander. I do a lot of juicing at home, and I want to introduce it to the Lunch Club.


The Over 50s Lunch Club is on every Tuesday, 12 – 2pm, at the Redmond Community Centre, Kayani Avenue, London N4 2HF

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