Out of Place? Media Workshop for Self-Help Groups

I went to a social media and press training course for self-help groups in Wandsworth today. I was a little out of place, to say the least, but in good company.

Many people were making jokes about leaving the social media to younger members of staff (namely Alice from Life Time, another attendee of the group), and not having a smart phone. Everyone was terribly earnest and we sat in a circle, just as if we were attending a real self-help group; though I’ve never personally been to one. It was like tapping into another world; the world of communities and vulnerability and age.

It was oddly movie-like, abounding with familiar stereotypes – the young liberal volunteer who confesses to checking the Guardian news on her smart phone every day. “News finds me,” says the tech-savvy social media lecturer, and for her, “getting lost in the news” is a frequent problem. Bombardment. This course is like a master class for keeping up with the modern world for many of the group, who are middle-aged or older.

It was like meeting the archetypes of society… The elderly man who quit his high-flying job because his wife has cancer. The fresh-faced, rosy-cheeked girl who a boy somewhere must be madly in love with, with scarf, boots and box fringe. The sweet, shy black lady who is reluctant to join the circle. The earnest, motherly group leader who has been running self-help groups for thirty years. The Vod-like (Fresh Meat) happy helper with a buzz cut, geeky glasses and Doc Martens. The sweet older lady with a degenerative neurological condition, who is highly intelligent and jokes about her walking sticks being sexy.

I am a hair’s breadth away from becoming Communications Officer (hopefully my next job) and yet it wasn’t until recently that I learned how to make a blog.

This group of self-helpers, out to improve the lives of others, occupy a strata of society often championed by the government, and yet at the same time is trampled by the Bullingdon Club boys, who possess little to no idea of the reality of grassroots community.

I don’t have much idea of it, really. Well, I didn’t until today.

All it makes me think, is, money gives you chances.

It is a slice of life; a useful workshop after all.


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