The ballooning colonel, Ally Pally and a myriad of other talks

The Phoenix Retirement Association meets on the second Monday of each month at the Phoenix Community Centre, 66 Westow Street, Upper Norwood, SE19 3AF – next to Saisbury’s, and offers high-quality talks, social meetings, congenial company and tea and biscuits!

The meetings are 2pm for 2.30pm start. New members are welcome; the subscription is £15 per year and the visitor’s fee for attending a single meeting is £2.

The PRA 2023 programme has just been finalised:

Jan 9: Energy Saving in the home – an illustrated talk by Esther Dennis
How can we use energy more efficiently in the home and reduce costs? The Upper Norwood Library Hub participates in the Big Energy Saving Network, and its staff, including Esther, can give advice on saving energy and the support available from local schemes and grants.

Feb 13: William and Eliza Stanley – an illustrated talk by John Hickman
The legacy of William Stanley lives on in South Norwood through Stanley Halls, the former Stanley Tech school and in the Clocktower constructed in his honour. There is, however, much more to be said about the remarkable contribution he and his wife made to the whole of Croydon. Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society vice-president John Hickman is not only expert in South Norwood history, but also a first-class speaker.

Mar 13: Ally Pally: Past, Present and Future – an illustrated talk by Emma Dagnes
We often recall the glory days of our late lamented Crystal Palace. Its north London counterpart, Alexandra Palace, pictured above, is still very much alive. Emma Dagnes is the chief executive of the Trust in charge of the building, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and her passion is the Palace, the birthplace of television broadcasting.

Apr 10 and May 8 – Bank Holidays – no meeting (to be confirmed)

Flying high: Col Burnaby, as seen by Punch magazine

Jun 12: A Victorian Hero – an illustrated talk by Julie Chandler
Colonel Frederick Burnaby was the strongest man in the British Army and an adventurer, maverick and all-round good guy. He travelled to dangerous places from war-torn Spain to the Sudan and the steppes of Russia, enjoying the new craze of hot-air ballooning on the way.

Jul 10: St John’s Wort – an illustrated talk by Helen Davies
Many curious tales and legends are associated St John’s Wort, a herb still used to lift the spirits, perhaps in more ways than one. Herbalist Helen Davies will tell its strange story and explain how it and other herbs are of value in medicine.

Aug 14: The Warmth of Summer – an illustrated talk by Louise Camby
A celebration of all the many joys of summer in a very visual, fun and informative talk.

Sep 11: Here Is the News and Other Happenings – an illustrated talk by Hilary Osborn
Raconteur Osborn has many enjoyable tales to tell about her career in radio and television in Britain and Europe involing her own programmes as well as news reading and reporting on Women’s Hour, The Food Programme and Breakaway (event to be confirmed).

Oct 9: Annie Besant – an illustrated talk by Fiona Castle
Radical, free-thinking and charismatic: no one in 1890s London was more controversial than beautiful firebrand Annie Besant, pictured left.

Here in Upper Norwood, on the very site of the Phoenix Centre, she unleashed a storm with Conan Doyle at its heart. Who better to tell her thrilling story than Fiona Castle, her own great-great-grandaughter?

Nov 13: Pantomime: An A to Z – an illustrated talk by Chris Abbott
No one is better placed to tell us about panto’s fascinating history and traditions than professor, author and panto musical director Chris Abbott, who has travelled to theatres and halls throughout Britain to see the shows and meet the performers. Oh yes he has..!

Dec 11: Christmas Party, with entertainment

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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