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Blue plaque winners

Blue plaque winners 2004

The Pioneer Health Centre

In 1935, two groundbreaking doctors opened the Pioneer Health Centre in St Mary's Road, Peckham.

It housed the "Peckham Experiment" - a unique attempt to raise public health through a combination of education, community care and preventative medicine.

The experiment came about in response to worryingly low levels of health and fitness amongst low income inner-city families. Doctors Scott Williamson and Innes Pearse (a husband and wife team) believed that social and physical environment could have a direct affect on health - and looked to prove it.

Just as we now join gyms, 950 families signed-up, paying one shilling a week to relax in a club-like atmosphere where physical exercise, games, workshops and relaxation were all encouraged. The families were constantly observed by Williamson and Pearse's team of doctors - and attended thorough medical examinations once a year.

The experiment was a bold departure in the medical field in the 1930s, concentrating on a preventative, rather than a curative approach to health - and its setting was equally pioneering. The well-lit and open-plan design of the building (designed by Sir Owen Williams) was far ahead of its time, providing an ideal environment for observation and relaxation.

The experiment continued until 1950, concluding that: "It is not wages that are lacking ... but quite simply ... social opportunities for knowledge and for action that should be the birthright of all; space for spontaneous exercise of young bodies, a local forum for sociability of young families, and current opportunity for picking up knowledge as the family goes along".

This philosophy forms the basis of today's Peckham Pulse Healthy Living Centre.

Time and Talents

Victorian Bermondsey was a Dickensian nightmare.

The area was a bustling industrial complex, where over five thousand young women were employed in dire conditions in dangerous and overcrowded factories.

Aware of the plight of these girls, Mina Goldlock and her friends from the Young Women's Christian Association decided to reach out to those who were less fortunate in life and began to visit the factories where they talked, sang hymns and distributed flowers to the bemused workers.

In 1899, the Time & Talents Association was opened in Bermondsey Street and provided a lively centre where singing, basketwork, knitting and sewing were taught.

Three decades later, it moved to Abbey Street where spacious new premises allowed it to expand its range of clubs and services.

The building was so badly damaged in the war, however, that it was forced to close in 1956 and only re-opened after 24 years when the association moved to its current location in Rotherhithe. It developed here into a vibrant neighbourhood centre offering a huge range of activities from local history workshops to tai chi.

Although conditions today are very different, Mina Gollock's desire to nurture the skills and abilities of all age groups in the community lives on to this day.

Tommy Steele

Born 1936

Legendary, singer, actor and stage show performer, Tommy Steele OBE was born Thomas Hicks on December 17 1936 in Bermondsey.

He served with the merchant navy but left to form a Skiffle group called The Cavemen with Lionel Bart (who later wrote the stage show hit Oliver!) and Mike Pratt (who was best known for his role as Randall in Randall and Hopkirk).

He was discovered at the now famous 2 Is coffee bar in Soho, and soon made his name as one of England's first rock and roll stars. Hits included Rock with the Caveman and Singing the Blues, which topped the charts in 1956 as well as the still-loved Little White Bull.

By the 1960s Steele's career took a more theatrical turn with lead roles in musicals such as Half a Sixpence (1963) and Finian's Rainbow (1968).  His role in Hans Andersen won him The Hans Andersen Award from the Danish Government in 1993.

His contribution to entertainment was recognised with an OBE and, in 1980 The Variety Club of Great Britain named him Entertainer of the Year.

He published his novel The Final Run, exhibited one of his paintings at the Royal Academy and was commissioned by Liverpool Council to design a statue of Eleanor Rigby in tribute to The Beatles.

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