Interview With Elizabeth Stout

This month we met Elizabeth Stout, the Children’s and Families Worker for St Nicholas Church on the Aberfeldy Estate ad and All Saints Church on East India Dock Road. Apart from a short stint at the University of Middlesex where Elizabeth studied Performing Arts and Dance, she has lived between Poplar and the Island all her life.

Elizabeth stout website 2

So Elizabeth, tell us a bit about your work….

As the Children’s and Families Worker for the 2 churches I organise events and activities for children and their families. This is split into two areas Faith Work and Community Work. I set up and run the weekly Buggy Mass sessions which are designed to explore spirituality with children and let them know God’s Love This project started in 2012 and has up to 30 regular children and parents attending. We set this up for a number of reasons. Sometimes a traditional mass can be tough for children to sit through when they have 10 minute sermons and are expected to be on their best behaviour. They and other members of the congregation can get frustrated so we wanted to create an environment for them to explore their faith and be children. Also, parents can find it a challenge to attend the Sunday mass as life simply gets in a way. What is great about Buggy Mass is that parents get something out of it too. The way we approach the topic of our faith is very different when talking and teaching children under 5 and this makes the teachings accessible in a different way for everyone.

We also run a great community session called Messy Church which has been going for about 2 years now. It is open to anyone in the community and it has become really popular with between 40-90 people attending! It is a chance for the community to come together and get to know their neighbours and participate and do something as a family. We start with themed crafts, listen and take part in a story/celebration and then sit down to a meal together I also run a Toddler Group every Wednesday morning which is open to anyone. We do free playing, games, songs and crafts. Many of the toddlers and parents enjoy making things for upcoming events like the next Messy Church.

The next Messy Church session is October 8th 4pm – 6pm at St Nicholas Church. If you want to find out more about any of these activities email Elizabeth at stnicholaschildren@gmail.com

Do you encounter any challenges in your work?

As with many charitable organisations we use volunteers and wouldn’t be able to get things done without them. A lot of our volunteers are parents and their time is limited so this can be a challenge some time. Also, I have found this part of East London to be quite a transient area so we do not always have people volunteer long-term. But we always adapt and have a great session no matter what!

Tell us a bit about your background.

Well I came to this work in a roundabout way. Doing a variety and mixture of roles from retail management, gym manager to performing professionally to running workshops for children. As a mum I became chair of the parents’ forum at the Children’s Centre in Chrisp Street. I am also a qualified personal trainer with a focus in pre & post-natal fitness and Nutrition. I started my work with the church in a voluntary basis and then the Vicar had a vision for children’s’ work and sought funding for a Children and families post.

What stands out to you about growing up in Poplar?

Something that immediately stands out for me is how local everything was and still is. It is great that I can get to everything I need without having to travel too far but it is also easy to get to other parts of London.

Growing up in Poplar I really remember the Poplar Baths. It is where I learned to swim! I can’t wait for them to open again, even though we don’t know when that will be!

Poplar is changing, what do you think about it?

The one thing I have noticed is the increase in anti-social behaviour. It feels like it is getting worse and the police are really awful at showing their commitment to their follow through.

There are a lot of new buildings going up and they look great! But I do worry as it doesn’t seem like they are always building like for like. A family living in a 3 bedroom house/ flat move and a 2 bedroom flat is put in its place. This has an effect on families in the area long term. Both on families being forced out of the area and new couple s trying to start a family. Also as we get more dense living we have more people living in the area and the strain on infrastructure is scary, like on GPs and primary school places.

The flipside is some infrastructure that has been put in place has really changed the area. Especially, having a DLR station in Langdon Park. I remember walking home from Chrisp Street and even though it wasn’t too far it felt like a long way.

All the activities you can get involved in at St Nicholas Church and All Saints Church are:

Buggy Mass Every Friday (term time) 10am St Nicholas Church

Tiny Tots Playtime every Wednesday (Term time) 10.15-12.15 £1 for one adult and child, 30p additional person. St Nicholas church hall.

Messy Churches: Thursday 8th October and Thursday 3rd December 4-6pm St Nicholas church hall.

For further details check out their website www.stnicholaspoplar.org or email/ call Elizabeth: stnicholaschildren@gmail.com 0207 515 8405