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“I do believe that life is too short“

With a singing career which took him all the way to Elvis's studio, Sycamore House's resident quiz-master Del has performing in his blood - and is determined to make the most of every moment.

I was born in Fulham off Wandsworth Bridge Road, in Hammersmith Hospital. I was bought up with my grandparents and my mother and I lived with them, along with my aunt and uncle. When I was eight, we moved to Roehampton. I didn’t know what a bath was until I went there. Mine was a tin bath and I was always the last one in it.  

My grandfather would take me to a musical theatre show every Friday night and I used to see people like The Crazy Gang and Norman Wisdom. My mum would take me to shows at the London Palladium. So I did the same with my kids: we used to take them to Leicester Square and get half-price tickets.  

One Saturday night I went to a show and a lady was sitting on the stage singing ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’. It made the hair on the back on my neck stand up. I found out afterwards that it was Judy Garland.  

How did you get involved in performing? 

 My genre of music was a mixture of Engelbert, Elvis and Tony Christie, Tom Jones and Sinatra. It started when I was growing up. My friend’s dad was an entertainment secretary in a club in Roehampton. We used to go there on a Saturday night, and they would call people up to sing. I was around 18 years old. They would say “Del, come up! Can you sing this for us?”.  

I became the entertainment secretary at the Shepherd’s Bush Club, formerly known as the Goldhawk Social Club, where I currently organise their live music. I book the live music at Sycamore House as well, for residents’ birthdays or entertainment nights.   

I have performed in Tunisia, Portugal and Spain. My friend, a drummer, who I’ve known since I was 11 years old and I went to America and I recorded music in Sun Studio where Elvis recorded. It’s still the same: the instruments are there, and we went into the booth and recorded ‘My Way’, Elvis style. You can’t just sing some songs, you have to perform them. Somebody writes those lyrics, and it means a lot to them. My job as a singer is to bring that out. 

One of the best things I did was go to Monte Gordo in Portugal. I had time off from work and at the same time I had lost my youngest son. My wife said for me to go abroad as I found it difficult to stay at home.  

I found a random a bar and saw a guy playing the piano and I sat next to him. I said to him “Do you know this song?” and I sung it with him. Once I finished the manager of the bar said: “Can you come in tonight and perform?”. Nine years later I was going there a few times a year. I performed at bars, a casino and a country club. 

Tell us about your family. 

My son’s names are Steve, Scott and Simon. My youngest son was diagnosed at 9 with a brain tumour, and was with us for three years after his diagnosis. 

My middle son Scott used to take Simon to a place called ‘Phab Club’, which arranged for the children to go Buckingham Palace Mews to learn to ride a horse. It was run by Lady Joan Bader; she was the wife of Douglas Bader, an airline pilot who lost his legs during the war. The Queen would sometimes pop in and help with the riding lessons. 

Simon was a big Arsenal supporter. One of his physiotherapists was an Arsenal seasonal ticket holder and she spoke to the club to arrange if he could watch the player’s train. We went to the Highbury grounds, and we sat in the manager boxes. The team were fantastic with him and made him laugh when I showed them that I was wearing my Fulham football shirt. I have a photo of him on that day in my living room.  

We received a red and white football and letter from Arsenal Football Club. Fulham Football Club sent a black and white football and the Chairman of the club sent a Rolls Royce with a player on Simon’s funeral day.    

What’s it like living in sheltered housing? 

I have been here for around seven and half years now. It’s great having access to a garden right outside my living room. I originally came here for my wife’s benefit as she was in a wheelchair due to her health. We moved in here in the summer and I sadly lost her the following February. We only had a brief time living in Sycamore House together. My second son Scott and my granddaughter passed away last year.  

My eldest son lives in Belfast. I am only able to travel short distances, so I haven’t been able to see my family as much. But I have WhatsApp and we talk, share photos and videos with each other and my son always calls me on the weekend. 

The scheme manager at Sycamore House, Chris, has been fantastic. When Scott died, Chris checked up on me and made sure I was okay. He gave me the company when I needed it. 

They are lovely people here. The staff are great. The best thing is you have your privacy, but the company is there if you need it. I am the quiz master here every Thursday. The residents get together after our coffee morning, and we have a good laugh.  


Find out more

Know someone who’s over 60, on a low income and in need of a safe and affordable home?
Find out about our sheltered housing in Hammersmith with beautiful award-winning gardens.

Opening our doors to older people in need of a home

We're inviting older people on a low income who need an affordable new home to tour our almshouses.

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We’re looking for a new Grants and Communication Officer

We have a terrific opportunity for someone at the early stages of, or looking to begin, their career in grant making. Find out more about our Grants and Communication Officer role here.

Location Based at Sycamore House (W6 0AS) with frequent visits to other HUC locations and grant holders (all in Hammersmith)
Salary: £28k – £34.5k (pro rata) depending on experience
Contract: 22.5 hours per week (3 days), Permanent
Reporting to: Head of Grants and Community
Benefits: 28 days annual leave plus bank holidays (pro-rata), Up to 8% employer contribution to pension, Health cash plan on completion of probation

The opportunity

This is a terrific opportunity for someone at the early stages of, or looking to begin, their career in grant making.

Key activities involve supporting the management of the grants programme, contributing to raising the profile of the organisation and the impact of our grant holders, and
maintaining the grants database.

Hammersmith United Charities is part of our community, and it is important that the Grants and Community team are in touch with what is happening in Hammersmith and the rest of our small team. This involves frequent visits to grant holders, partners or networking meetings as well as hands on involvement with the life of the Almshouses.

About you

We are seeking an individual who is passionate about community, loves working with people, is flexible and thrives in a changing environment, genuinely enjoys administration and takes pride in excellent attention to detail.

We particularly welcome applications from people with a strong connection to Hammersmith and Fulham.

Purpose of the role

To provide support to all aspects of the Charity’s grants and community work including:

  • Grants administration
  • Database, website and social media management
  • Supporting prospective and current grant holders
  • Helping promote the work of the Charity and that of our grant holders

Download the detailed Job Description here

Application process

We are committed to our team reflecting the diversity of the communities we work with and welcome applications from people of all ages, sexual orientations, genders,
ethnicities, nationalities, religions and beliefs.

If you are excited by the role but aren’t sure if you have the right experience then we’d still love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact Paul, our Head of Grants and Community, for an informal chat by emailing paul.robson@hamunitedcharities.com to arrange a call.

To apply, please send us written answers to the following questions using a maximum of 600 words in total OR answer the questions in a video of up to 5 minutes.

  1. Tell us why you want this job and why you want to work for Hammersmith United Charities
  2. Tell us about your skills and experience and how they are a good fit for the role

Please email your written answers or video to officeadmin@hamunitedcharities.com no later than midday on Tuesday 21 November 2023, shortlisting will take place that week.

First round interviews will be held online on 29th or 30th November

Second round interviews will be in person at Sycamore House, W6 0AS on Wednesday 6th or Thursday7 th December. A presentation may be required at final interview.

These dates may be subject to change and applicants will be advised in advance should this happen.

To be appointed to this role you must be eligible to work in the UK, undertake an enhanced DBS check and provide satisfactory references. We will follow up on this later in the process.

By submitting your application, you are consenting to the processing and storage of your personal data in order that you can progress through our recruitment and management process. We will never sell your data however we are obliged by law to inform you that should we be required to we may share your data with external agencies. This may include but is not limited to CareCheck (a service for managing and processing Disclosure & Barring Service clearance applications) and our HR Advisors. We will also contact those individuals you name as your referees to confirm your suitability for the role you are applying for. Your data will only be used for your role and to comply with our statutory and legal obligations. If your application is unsuccessful, we will retain your information for 6 months; after this date it will be safely destroyed. If your application is successful, we will retain your information for the duration of your commitment and up to 6 years after you cease employment.

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In pictures: out and about

Our team took part in the Wormholt & White City Community Festival in September, which celebrated our vibrant community.

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5 minutes with…Our community gardeners

Meet our community gardeners, India and Lucy, who nurture the award-winning green spaces at our almshouses.

What do you both do and why do you enjoy it?

We are the community gardeners for Hammersmith United Charities’ two sheltered housing schemes (almshouses), John Betts House and Sycamore House.

The gardens are an unexpected highlight at both almshouses. Visitor, residents and staff alike often comment on the beautiful surprise of the gardens as they discover them for the first time.

We manage, maintain and improve the gardens while also providing activities and workshops for residents. A big part of our role is to encourage the residents to use the gardens, and advise and support them with their own plots and pots displays.

At both the almshouses, we love the diversity of personalities, activities and events – and how each day is different from the last. The kindness of the residents to the staff and each other is a daily joy.

How would you describe the gardens?

The gardens provide a space for all residents to enjoy in a variety of ways. Groups of residents meet in the gardens for a chat and a cup of tea, others sit alone and immerse themselves in the sounds and sights of nature, or simply read a paper or have a chat on the phone.  Some residents get their daily exercise by doing laps of the gardens, while many residents have their own small plots and pots, getting involved in the practical nature of gardening, planting, watering and weeding.

Currently residents are preparing for spring by planting bulbs in pots and looking forward to the next growing season following the dark and quiet winter months.

How do the residents help you with the gardens?

We work closely with the residents and many of them assist us in maintaining the gardens by watering and weeding, sweeping paths, leaf clearance and dead heading the beautiful roses.  We appreciate all the work the residents do and could not maintain these award-winning gardens without them.

What are some important gardening jobs you’ll be doing as we head into the autumn and winter?

Seasonal jobs include leaf clearance and ensuring all pathways are safe, bulb planting and compost turning. We manage all our green waste so that it returns to the gardens for the health of the plants and trees. We are currently preparing areas in both gardens to create wildflower meadows for next summer.

What is your favourite local green space to visit and why?

India has recently introduced Lucy to W6 Garden Centre on the edge of Ravenscourt Park.  It is a beautiful oasis of indoor and outdoor plants, garden supplies and has a gorgeous cafe. Many of our residents enjoy it too!

Find out more 


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Almshouse living may boost life expectancy by up to 2.5 years

New research from Bayes Business School has found that many almshouse residents receive a “longevity boost”.

On average, the lower a person’s socioeconomic status, the lower their life expectancy. But new research from Bayes Business School has found that many almshouse residents receive a “longevity boost” compared to their peers of the same socioeconomic status from the wider population.

The new research is based on analysis of many decades of records from 15 English almshouses. The life expectancy of almshouse residents was compared to people of similar gender and socio-economic background from the general population and was generally found to be longer. Giving an example, the authors estimate that a 73-year-old man entering the almshouse with the highest longevity boost in the study today could live 2.4 years longer than his peers from the same socioeconomic group.

Almshouses, which have traditionally provided affordable community housing for older people, are usually designed around a communal courtyard or gardens. Residents live independently and there are plenty of opportunities for social connection and support when needed.

Professor Ben Rickayzen, report co-author and professor of actuarial science at Bayes Business School, said: “More research is needed to ascertain exactly what factors cause almshouse residents to have a longer life. However, we postulate that it is the sense of the community that is the most powerful ingredient.

“For example, a common theme… is that [almshouses] encourage residents to undertake social activities and responsibilities on behalf of their fellow residents. This is likely to increase their sense of belonging and give them a greater sense of purpose in their everyday lives while mitigating against social isolation.”

Hammersmith United Charities Chief Executive, Victoria Hill, said: “It’s great to hear some evidence for what we’ve always felt to be true. Community means different things to different people, but usually it’s more than just the opportunity to socialise and be active. It’s often things like feeling safe and welcome among your neighbours, knowing there’s always someone nearby to help or being able to help others. It doesn’t surprise me that this feeling of belonging in your community may help you live longer and, we hope, happier lives.”

Find out more 
  • The full report: ‘Almshouse Longevity Study: Can Living in an Almshouse Lead to a Longer Life?’
  • Bayes Business School news release with a summary of key findings
  • Find out more about Hammersmith United Charities’s almshouses
  • Find out more about almshouses and their history

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