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The Wicked One: Gordon Fryer

How long have you lived here?

I was born in Woodford Green and went to school there. Then I joined the Navy for 10 years, came back and got married, and my first wife was from Hackney so we ended up here. We’ve moved around a couple of times, not away from the area, but the council moved us when they were pulling places down. I can’t see me going anywhere else now, though. We have a bungalow facing The Old Baths and it’s lovely there.


Describe your role at the senior citizens club?

I joined around 2006 as a member and there was probably around 30-40 of us in those days. They asked me to go on a committee, so I did that for a year but got fed up with our moaning; we didn’t want to do this and don’t want to do that. I think it was around 2014 that they asked me to come back, and I became Chairman. I’ve also been treasurer, dog’s body – nobody else wants to do any of it. I suppose they don’t want the responsibility. We did have one lady as the ViceChair but she moved away. That’s the trouble, most of the old crowd either die or their families move them off. The people moving in today, they’re not really interested in a senior citizens club, they’re much younger now.


Is it a lot of responsibility?

Well, I say it’s just me but I do have help. When we have bingo on a Monday and Friday, I do the calling and I have someone that goes around and collects the money. I keep saying that I’ve had enough and that I’m going to retire. But my wife always says, “what else are you going to do, sit indoors all day?” And she’s right. On the first Sunday of the month we have the counsellors come in and people can complain about this or that. One of the counsellors, Jessica, didn’t want me to quit. She feels a bit more secure if I’m around. So they don’t want me to retire which means I’m stuck, but I don’t mind. I like what I do, I get a kick out of it. Especially when, before Covid, we was doing IT classes for the over 50s, and tea dances and all different things. The Hackney Wicked Women come and help out too. We have a good laugh.

Did you have to close over Covid?

Yeah, we had to shut for around 18 months. There’s only 25 in the club now, which isn’t bad, it’s a manageable number. We don’t seem to see good ones anymore. The older people, the proper East Enders were all for a laugh – a good old knees-up every other Saturday. But it’s not like that anymore.

Do you think it’s difficult to reach older people in this area?
It really is. There’s so much for youngsters to do, and there’s a lot going on for the elderly too, but a lot of them are still frightened to come out of their houses. I’ve found they’re still a bit wary after Covid.

What’s your greatest achievement?

Staying alive to the age that I am! I’ve just turned 88. I don’t think I’ve achieved any great fame, although I was in a GiffGaff advert when they came to the centre and filmed us about our IT club. 

So how can people use this space?

People often call this a community hall, but it’s not, it’s a club. You have to become a member and it costs £1 a week, which pays for everything. Everything you see in the club was paid for by us, not the council. In 2015 a young lady came from the council who wanted to use the hall for some things. I wasn’t very keen, but it needed to be used more as we weren’t in it that much. So we had an agreement, which I regret not having in writing now, where we have the first choice of dates and they email me if they get bookings. I always come down to open and close because I don’t trust them. The first time the space was borrowed, I went past and there were kids going through all the drawers in the office! From then on I said I’d come down with my keys, it’s safer that way.

Who is your Hackney Wick hero?

Someone who has helped us a lot is Polly Mann. She’s amazing. I always phone her up and she’s always doing things for me. During the lockdown, she went round on her bike giving out food and checking in on people. She really is a hero. I think she’s great.


What is your favourite thing to do?

I think it would be coming to look after this place. Because I do like doing it and I do care for it. I meet so many different people. The other day a lady told me she belonged to a place called the Tree Musketeers. They’re volunteers who go around and plant trees in the area. Where I live there’s a bit of a green, the trees that were there got cut down, they were meant to be replaced but it never happened. So this lady asked if we minded them planting new trees and I loved the idea and so did my neighbours. It’s little things like that, you meet different and interesting people all the time.


What’s your opinion on all the changes to the neighbourhood?

It used to be a terrible area. Lots of fights, and you had the infamous railway murder that happened at Hackney Wick Station. It was rough, so it’s improved a hell of a lot. Me and my wife were walking along the canal 10 years ago, and were stopped by this man asking what we felt of the area being developed because of the Olympics. My current wife comes from Latvia, and she said that there was nothing not to like about it. We have two massive parks either side, the canal to walk along and buses on our doorstep. What they’ve done is really good, it’s a big improvement. The only trouble is, now you have all these new buildings they are bringing in people with money. So where I used to be able to go down the road and get breakfast for £1.80, I now have to pay about a fiver. Also, that pub on the corner, the Lord Napier; I used to go in there back in the 50s. It was a monstrous pub back then, but now it’s so nice there. It’s a million times better.

What has living here taught you?

How to run a club! I know there’s a lot of issues around Covid and people not working, but you walk around the streets now and there’s no one sweeping them up. There’s so many young people here now and they’ve got no respect. They go along with their beer cans and just throw them on the floor.


On the other hand, lots of young people are eco-conscious, right?

Yeah, there’s a lot of them working very hard on that. I’m not trying to tar them all with the same brush. Some are very good, very helpful.


What advice do you give to the younger generation in the Wick?

Just be nice and sociable. I’ve found in the last few years people say hello more in the mornings. You never used to get that before, so it’s nice. That, and be more litter aware… Now, would you like another cup of tea?

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