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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.  

 


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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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New Flexible 3 Year Grant holders announced

Find out more about some of our Flexible 3 Year Grant holders

Many of our grant holders are facing the perfect storm of increasing costs coupled with increasing demand. Our new Flexible 3-Year Grants programme was launched in response to feedback from grant holders, who let us know how much they value multi-year funding. The grants will help organisations to meet demand and plan for the future.

Our first funding round closed in December 2023, and we’re delighted to say that Family Friends, The Violence Intervention Project and the Lido Foundation have all been awarded £45,000, which will be split over three years.

Family Friends

We all need someone to turn to when times are tough – someone who will listen without judgement, offer advice and provide emotional support. Family Friends offers all this and more. Its befriending service helps parents to feel more confident, connect with local services and work to build a brighter future for themselves and their children. The charity also offers ‘Big Buddies’ to support children and teenagers with homework, hobbies and goals.

CEO Mel Christodoulou says, “The grant will enable us to employ a dedicated Family Connector focused on Hammersmith and Fulham, responding to a 36% increase in referrals this year. This ‘boots on the ground’ presence will allow us to extend our services and create a sustainable future in Hammersmith and Fulham.”

The Violence Intervention Project (The V.I.P)

When children and teenagers are aggressive, it’s often a sign of childhood trauma, such as abuse, neglect or bereavement.

The V.I.P works with young people to break the cycle of violence. It does this through ‘Urban Therapy’, which combines both therapeutic and practical support, to develop their psychological resilience and improve their socio-economic situations. This holistic approach is key to achieving long-term, sustainable changes within their cohort.

Funding & Operations Manager Jamie Crouch says, “Despite experiencing adversity and disadvantage, our clients have the potential to lead positive and fulfilling lives – and we act as the bridge between their past and their future.”

The V.I.P will use its grant to help establish a new youth committee, engage members of the public and contribute to staffing costs.

The Lido Foundation

Recent years have taken a huge toll on people’s finances, so it’s no surprise that the Lido Foundation experienced a three-fold increase in the number of people needing support last year. CEO Liban Muse says, “We have seen people in desperate situations who had to make difficult decisions to get food on the table for their families or to heat their homes.”

The charity helped 1400 people in 2022-23, many of whom are Black women with limited English and digital skills. The Lido Foundation offers practical support, such as helping people to apply for Universal Credit, negotiate with creditors and avoid homelessness.

HUC’s grant will help the Lido Foundation to cover its core costs, including contributing to the salary of the charity’s welfare adviser.

Find out more about applying for a grant

We will award up to three more Flexible 3 Year Grants in 2024. The exact date for applications is to be announced but is planned for June. This programme focuses on organisations that we already work with.

We also offer Community Grants. There are three opportunities to apply each year. If you’d like to be informed when the next round opens, please sign up to our newsletter.

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November 2023 and February 2024 grantees

£240,000 to 28 community organisations!

Every year, Hammersmith United Charities provides £400,000 to local groups that are creating positive change in our area of benefit. Our most recent grant rounds in November 2023 and February 2024 saw unprecedented demand, with organisations requesting a total of over £640,000. The Committee responded by approving grants to 28 of those groups, ranging from £3,500 to £15,000 and totalling over £240,000.

The organisations receiving funding include Age UK Hammersmith and Fulham, who support 426 people over 50 years old; Bees & Refugees, who work with 100 people in H&F, most of whom are on a low-income; and Hammersmith Community Gardens Association (HCGA), who manage four community gardens in H+F.

How to apply for a HUC Community Grant

We hold three grant rounds each year and are particularly keen to hear from smaller, local organisations with a strong connection to their community and a working knowledge of the local area. Your project can be one-off or ongoing. What interests us most is the difference you’ll make to the local people most in need.

Please complete our Eligibility Quiz before applying, and then contact us at grants@hamunitedcharities.com to tell us about your project. We like to talk to applicants before you apply so that we can get a better understanding of what you’re doing and answer any questions you may have.

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CIC workshop success

“How do I convert a CIC to a charity?”, “Which banks accept CICs?”, “How do I employ people at my CIC?” 

These are just some of the questions that came up at the recent workshop we held for the leaders of Community Interest Companies (CICs). Many of the organisations that we work with are Community Interest Companies. Smaller CICs are often run by just one person, who has to manage everything from customer service to admin, accounting and marketing. Not surprisingly, many CIC leaders struggle to keep up with admin and reporting, which makes it difficult to apply for grants and other funding.  

So, when we asked local CICs whether they’d be interested in a workshop to share ideas and experiences, the answer was a resounding “yes”. To help ensure that as many CIC leaders as possible could attend the workshop, we decided to hold it online. We also worked with Dr Edwards & Bishop King’s (DEBK) and Peabody Trust to promote the event to relevant organisations.  

The Directory of Social Change recommended that we ask Leesa Harwood to run the event. Leesa has more than 30 years’ experience in the third sector and now runs her own consultancy company, so was the ideal presenter and facilitator. 

The two-hour workshop proved to be very informative, with plenty of lively discussions and sharing of experiences. 11 people attended. All either run a CIC or are considering setting one up. Conversations included finding directors with the right skills, whether (and how) to change from a CIC to a charity to attract more grant funding, and the challenges of employing people part-time.

Feedback was very positive, with one participant writing, “Thank you for organising today’s workshop. Very helpful and great to connect with other local organisations.” 

At Hammersmith United Charities, we often receive grant applications from community groups that are finding it difficult to keep up with CIC administration or which are struggling to create an appropriate organisational structure. We hope that workshops such as these will support local organisations to share information, access funding and, ultimately, become more sustainable so that they can continue their vital work for many years to come. 

If you’d like to discover more about what was shared at the workshop, you can access the files here. And, if you’re thinking of setting up your own CIC, Social Enterprise UK has lots of useful information and you can also download guides from the government’s website 

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Leslie, Head of Housing

Meet our head of housing

Leslie Morson has been managing housing for over 20 years. He started his career in Hammersmith and has recently returned to the borough as our Head of Housing. Find out about his biggest vice and who he thinks is the best James Bond.

What do you like about Hammersmith?

It’s a really vibrant borough and there’s always a lot going on. I like the mix of communities – I live in Haringey which enjoys the same kind of mix. There’s also a lot of support in the borough for older people which is important.

What does your job involve?

I manage Hammersmith United Charities’ sheltered housing making sure that the buildings are safe and well maintained and also that the residents are being looked after and we can meet their needs. We help them with things such as completing forms and also provide a programme of social activities. We have two sheltered housing schemes just off Goldhawk Road – John Betts House on Rylett Road and Sycamore House on Sycamore Gardens. We are fortunate that we offer large flats decorated to a high standard. What is very special about our housing is the large communal gardens which both our schemes have and these gardens are enjoyed and highly valued by the residents. We are so lucky to have two gardeners who work with the residents to maintain them and keep them looking so beautiful.

You mentioned activities for the residents, what are those?

We have coffee mornings every Thursday. There are also exercise classes and game nights. Local specialists and community groups come in to talk to the residents and there are occasional trips, such as afternoon teas and outings to the seaside. In addition, the residents organise their own social events. For example, at John Betts House the residents arrange a film evening once a week. One of the things that I am looking forward to is to see how we could develop these activities even further. We’re starting to think about what we might do to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in June.

What’s the best thing about the job?

The people. We are a really nice staff team here – almost like a family. I’m starting to get to know the residents and they are great too.

In your free time what do you get up to?

Free time? What is that? I like travelling and I love to get away, even if it is just a short trip at weekends – we were in York the other weekend. My last big trip was going to China and I really like going to the Far East such as to Thailand and Cambodia.

What’s your biggest vice?

I think my wife would tell you it is wasting money, particularly buying electrical things and gadgets that I shouldn’t. I am what’s called an early adopter when it comes to technology and really like my gadgets. Last year I bought a new shower head which has a demister which somehow helps the environment, but I still haven’t installed it after about nine months!

Which do you prefer film or theatre?

That’s difficult. My wife trained as an actress and we often go to the theatre. I’ve been at least three times since the theatres opened up again. However, I do enjoy film as well and pay far too much money for streaming services such as Netflix and Sky. The last thing I saw at the cinema was the latest James Bond movie – I’m a huge James Bond fan. Daniel Craig is without doubt the best Bond we have ever had.

Eat out or take away?

I am a terrible cook, but my wife is an even worse cook than me and she’ll admit to that. I am the one who prepares Christmas dinner. Eat out would be the preference but my wife is a really fussy eater so I enjoy going out for a meal with friends rather than with my wife!

Reading a book or watching the tv?

I’m ashamed to say it but it’s going to have to be TV. I asked for a couple of books for Christmas which I got and I haven’t even picked them up yet. I used to be an avid reader, but I just don’t do it now. One of the books I got for Christmas was Vic Reeve’s autobiography but reading takes concentration and instead you can just stick the TV on and zone out.

Tea or coffee?

I’m not really a big tea or coffee drinker. I never have been. If I was to drink tea, I prefer a Darjeeling with a slice of lemon than a builder’s tea.

If someone is interested in Hammersmith United Charities’ housing, what should they do?

First, check our eligibility criteria. Then just give me a call on 07470 793 565, I would love to show you around.


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