Pensioners in Southwark have been celebrating 100 years of the Old Age Pension by recreating the historic campaign that began in their London borough that eventually led to the Old Age Pension Act in 1908. Inspired by the Edwardian campaigners such as the Reverend Herbert Stead, Southwark Pensioners Action Group teamed up with 1st Framework Theatre Company to re-create the south London street scenes of the pensions’ campaign that led to the introduction of the Act.
Over the weekend 100 pensioners and children, led by a brass band, marched from East Street market to the gardens of the InSpire community centre. Speeches from the original campaign were read by actors, followed by modern day entertainers including Ida Barr, a musical hall performer turned rapper.
The Heritage Lottery funded project, Five Bob, takes its name from the nickname for the five shillings first awarded to pensioners. This weekly amount was enough to prolong the independence of many older people and keep them out of the dreaded workhouses.
Julia Honess, co-ordinator of the Five Bob project, says: “It’s been great getting children to think about life for older people in Edwardian times and the importance of the introduction of the old age pension. The most exciting part of this project has been the Five Bob brass band we put together that re-enacted the march by the original campaign band.”
For Southwark Pensioners Action Group the centenary represents an important opportunity to highlight the concerns of pensioners today in their campaign for a better state pension. The group will also be involved in the upcoming lobby of Parliament for a better pension on October 22.
A website and education pack will be made available to provide further information about the history behind the pension. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lobby of Parliament
Words and photographs: Mark Drinkwater.