'We're not related by blood but we are a family'

Margaret, Sutton House

For Margaret, life is all about community. Born in Derbyshire, Margaret remembers a time when everyone knew everyone and looked out for one another. Now, she lives in a high rise flat in Hackney and while this could be isolating, she has created a life for herself outside the tower block.

Margaret, one of the core members of the recycled teenagers
Margaret and the Recycled Teenagers at Sutton House, London
Margaret in the yard at Sutton House, London
Stuart taking the recycled teenagers through their dance steps, Sutton House
Margaret and her fellow recycled teenagers enjoying a dance class
Margaret at Sutton House Play Video
Margaret, one of the core members of the recycled teenagers Margaret and the Recycled Teenagers at Sutton House, London Margaret in the yard at Sutton House, London Stuart taking the recycled teenagers through their dance steps, Sutton House Margaret and her fellow recycled teenagers enjoying a dance class

Recycled teenagers

Margaret’s love of being amongst people and contributing to her community, led her to coin the phrase ‘recycled teenagers’ for the group of over 55 year olds that meet once a week at Sutton House. For many of the ‘teenagers’, some in their 90s, their time together making crafts, playing music and learning to dance with their teacher Stuart, is one of the only times they get to interact with others.  

The 'Doctor of Dance'

Fondly referred to as the ‘Doctor of Dance’ the group love what Stuart brings into their lives, through their weekly class. Regardless of age or ability - one woman even goes to the class despite being on crutches - they give it a go. As Margaret says 'We’ve retired, not expired.'

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The power of dance

Teaching the recycled teenagers is less like work and more like being with family. As their dance teacher for 10 years, Stuart has seen them achieve things they didn't think would be possible.

'I try and transport them back to a place where they feel younger. At the beginning of class they have a moan about the aches and pains, but by the time we’ve ended everybody is smiling and skipping out into the distance. I see the smiles on their faces and know I have done my job.'

Margaret and her fellow recycled teenagers enjoying a dance class

Everyone welcome

For 11 years, being a part of the recycled teenagers has been the highlight of Margaret’s week, and is something she encourages others in her community to join. With acceptance and respect as their core values, they welcome all newcomers into their family.

As Margaret likes to point out, 'We all come from different parts of the world, and follow different religions, but we accept each other for what we are. When other people come we adopt them into our family, no questions asked. We’ve got life in common, as a human being, haven’t we?'

Giving back to the community

While people bustle past Sutton House going about their lives, it's an essential part of life for this group. However, they give back as much as they get from it.

Over the years, the recycled teenagers have produced tapestries and artwork, which now hang on the walls, and have made crafts that have been sold to raise funds for the house. Outside, they have transformed the Breaker's Yard into a garden where the community can sit and enjoy a cuppa, or the kids can play in the sandpit.

Protecting a place that means so much

With Sutton House representing such an important part of Margaret’s life, it's unsurprising that she is passionate about its protection and the value it offers to the community.

'People go to these groups and it’s like a comfort blanket. When they leave, they leave that behind and they haven’t got another at home to surround them. That’s the good thing about Sutton House. I’ve got a comfort blanket to go to on a Friday where I can unwind and be with people that I love and the people love me.'

For Margaret and the recycled teenagers, Sutton House is a place where potentially isolated and lonely people can spend time with others, feeding that important part of all our souls – to have companionship and friendship. 

A chequered past