London is hosting a relaxing night of music and fun for the capital’s key workers. Anabel Unity Sale dons her best attire and attends
Last night a DJ saved my life. Well, not exactly. But it is not entirely inconceivable given the clientele at Fun-Key, an exclusive social event for key workers in London’s Leicester Square.
Launched on Friday 3 April at the club Sound, Fun-Key is for the capital’s social workers, doctors, firefighters, community workers, teaching professionals and others to meet informally once a month.
Pictures from Fun-Key April 2009 (All photos by Tom Parkes)
Maisie Collin-Khouani, a youth offending team manager for a London borough, created the night. Sitting on a red sofa in Sound’s balcony bar, wearing glamorous leopard print stilettos, she explains she wants to establish an environment where those on the public sector’s frontline can relax and network.
“There are thousands of people like me working every day to support communities in London and there is no forum for us to talk to each other and share our experiences,” she says. “It is important we feel a sense of community in the same way we build up the communities we work with. I feel like all key workers are my colleagues.”
Collin-Khouani had the inspiration for the event two years ago while she was off work recovering from a traffic accident. She paid for Fun-Key’s website and opening night, including a magician to entertain guests and two qualified masseurs to give arm, back and head massages to guests.
Collin-Khouani says she brings her passion for social work to running Fun-Key in her free time. “I got a buzz out of organising this. Within my work there are lots of different training events and conferences for people to attend and network at, but I wanted Fun-Key to be a fun environment without that pressure.”
To promote the event she contacted London’s councils, primary care trusts and police. As the chrome and red decorated bar fills up with the 72 people who bought tickets from the website, Collin-Khouani is pleased with the turnout. An enthralled table of people watch the magician’s card tricks and the masseurs have a queue waiting for their nimble fingers.
Dawn Goddard, probation officer, Westminster
“Working for the probation service can be very stressful and it is good to meet like-minded people who understand this,” says Dawn Goddard. “It’s hard to meet people when you work nine to 10 hours a day, and when I finish work I go to the gym. The only time I go out is on a Friday night so this is good for me.” Goddard says she wants to meet other professionals with similar values outside the workplace where there is more chance to chat informally: “Here we can relax, have a drink and learn about how each other works.” Goddard is soon to be transferred on a two-year secondment to her local borough’s youth offending services and spoke to youth offending workers at Fun-Key. “It’s been good to talk to them about what they do.”
Catherine Bury,clinical psychologist in youth offending service, Camden
Catherine Bury was invited by Fun-Key founder Collin-Khouani to attend the opening night and came because she supports the night, and its aims. “It’s a very good idea, I like the concept,” she says. “It’s nice to meet people who do the same sort of thing as you.” Bury says all she wants from the evening is to meet nice people who she can chat to in a relaxed way. “It’s nice to talk to people about work but it’s also good not to have to talk about it as they understand what it’s like.” So far she has been networking with several of the other people at Fun-Key, including people who work in a hostel. Bury told her colleagues and friends about the night and they were supportive of her attending: “I’ve told my friends, who think it’s cool, I think it helps that it’s in a central London club.”
Sarah O’Donovan, referral and assessment social worker, children’s and families, Barnet Council
When Sarah O’Donovan tells people she meets socially that she is a social worker she can see their unease. “People see what happens in the news about social workers and have a negative view. It would be nice to change that.” She qualified two years ago and part of the reason she wanted to attend the night was to meet people who may understand what it’s like being a new social worker. “It’s good to socialise with other key workers. It’s more fun to do it here as you don’t have the pressure of work.” So keen was she about the event, she brought two colleagues and her friend who is as a teacher with her. O’Donovan plans to go to the next Fun-Key in May.
Wills McGuigan, project worker, Single Homelessness Project
Spending time relaxing with other key workers really appeals to Wills McGuigan. “You tend to form close friendships with colleagues and whether you get on or not with them is important to how you work. So I thought Fun-Key would be a fun thing to do,” he says. Public sector work can be challenging and talking to other professionals who understand what you are experiencing is a great way to let off steam, McGuigan adds. He heard about the event through friends. So far the evening has been enjoyable: “I’ve had some good conversations and talked to people of the same ilk. It’s been easy to relax and enjoy myself.”
Jillian De Boo, senior practitioner, safeguarding and social care team, Camden Council
Australian Jillian De Boo says as far as she knows her homeland boasts no events like Fun-Key. She has worked in the UK for four years and welcomes the opportunity to meet more of her fellow professionals: “I like the idea of getting together with staff from all the agencies I work with. You wouldn’t say ‘let’s have a drink’ to them while you’re at work but in a situation like this it’s fine to do.” De Boo sees the night as a good opportunity to network with like-minded people and “meet firemen and doctors and other professionals”. Her social worker colleagues have also reacted positively when she told them about the evening. They appreciate that the event is organised with the sole purpose of bringing key workers together, she says, and some have said they may attend future nights with her.
Keith Jarrett, interventions and play worker, primary school, Haringey Council
Fun-Key is the perfect opportunity to network in an enjoyable and fun way, according to Keith Jarrett. The primary school worker hopes the evening will help him meet fellow professionals and talk to people with similar backgrounds. He worked in social care for four years and wants to be a family support worker and hopes to meet people who can advise him on how to climb the career ladder. “I’m here because it’s a good idea to meet people in the same field and exchange ideas and make contacts,” he says. Jarrett heard about Fun-Key via the social networking site Facebook and brought his wife, who works in a nursery. “She was just as keen as me to come. I also told my friends about it and they liked the sound of it too.”Contact Fun-Key on 07792 477016, e-mail or go to http://www.fun-key.net
Published in the 16 April 2009 edition of Community Care under the headline A Funky Night Out