Children revel in spirit of Christmas past: The generations mix for carols, bowls and 'living history' after a senior citizen's club moves into a classroom. Diana Hinds reports

AT ST AIDAN'S County High in Carlisle, elderly members of the school's Hobman Club are rehearsing with pupils for the carol service. Sporting party hats and clutching scripts, they act out a short scene in which they reminisce about Christmas past, about plucking the goose and stirring threepenny bits into the pudding.

The pupils watch with a mixture of respect and amused indulgence. Although this is the first time the old people have joined in the carol service, they have been a feature of school life since the Hobman Club was established several years ago, the first of its kind in the country.

Named after David Hobman, the first director of Age Concern England, who helped launch the project, the club is based in a converted science laboratory, which the school no longer needed. David Kemp, head of St Aidan's, originally agreed to house the club, for a small rent, because it had nowhere else to go, but he had little idea of the productive relationship that would develop between members and pupils.

About 30 older people attend the club every Tuesday morning, many of them to play Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit, or to chat. But when they started games of bowls in the school hall, pupils became interested and asked to join in. Games with club members developed, and last year a joint sponsored bowling tournament raised pounds 1,700 for Children in Need.

'Their (the pupils') concentration seems to wane after about an hour,' said Jack Hawes, vice-president of the club, ' but it's quite a good laugh playing with them because, being schoolchildren, they take the mickey out of each other. But they're very polite to us: I think they respect old age.'

Club members have also got involved in the classroom, offering themselves as resource material for 'living history' projects, both at St Aidan's and at a local primary school.

'The children think we're Ancient Britons,' said Dorothy Glaister. 'One asked me if I had had a bicycle when I was young, and another one said, was it a penny-farthing?'

Mr Kemp believes further links with the club could follow, such as one-to-one support of pupils during lessons, but he is anxious not to push anything. Other schools are now starting to follow suit, and Hobman Clubs have been established this autumn in the Isle of Wight, Birmingham, and Cleator Moor, Workington and Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria.

Mr Kemp said: 'Bringing together the generations is vital for the future of society . . . There is definitely a tendency among young people to imagine that the older generation is in some way out of touch with reality and that therefore their ideas are not to be taken seriously. At an informal, subconscious level, we are to working to oppose that point of view.'

At St Aidan's, the benefits of the scheme are felt on both sides. 'Doing things with the school brings back memories of past days, and my own children,' said Dorothy Williams. 'I haven't any grandchildren, so it's nice to be with the young ones again.'

Chris Kennedy, 16, who plays bowls with the club, said he found it easier to get on with the members than with his teachers, 'because they don't shout at you to be quiet and you can say what you want. It's definitely a good idea having them here - and it gets them out and about as well.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015