VOICES OF LEWISHAM
“I take a day at a time, and remember that one day it will come to an end”.
Nick O’Shea, ‘born and bred’ in Lewisham, is a trustee of Ignition Brewery, a Sydenham-based social enterprise which employs people with a learning disability to brew beer.
He runs the brewery with Will Evans “as part of a team of twelve brilliant brewers”.
“For the Ignition Brewery our biggest challenge and priority has been the safety and financial wellbeing of the team. The team have varying learning disabilities and live with older parents.
Spending more time together than usual can be challenging, with the whole household shielding in some cases and the impact on their independence.
“During the first lockdown, the team were paid to ‘work from home’. As this is their only job, with them working 2-12 hours a week, they have limited savings. We checked in with team members weekly to start with, either in person or by phone, to see how they were doing. We had to reassure them that their jobs would be safe and that the brewery would reopen. It helped to show the team we were in this together and would stand by them.
“The team said they felt isolated, they didn’t see others as before and had just the one walk a day.
They have also faced the challenges of mental health, with many having no access to the internet or to the social clubs they attended before. It was a lonely time but their mood lifted as summer came.
“Over recent months they have returned to the brewery, where we use personal protective equipment (PPE) and religiously spray our surfaces with strong disinfectant. It was uplifting to see the team return and have the chance to see each other again.
“On a personal level, I feel fine. I am very lucky to have good friends and family. And lots to keep me busy. I enjoy walking on Blackheath and cycling when I can. With the Low Traffic Neighbourhood in place I’ve largely cycled from home to Sydenham and don’t use the car. I feel healthier and fortunate that we’re all still alive. As time goes on though, it does get harder to stay positive. Spring will come.
“With the brewery it has been the team who have been brilliant, adaptable and trusting.
Sydenham’s community has been great with checking in on everyone. Seeing familiar faces made team members feel loved on their return to the brewery. Having customers visiting to purchase takeaway beer or waving at us when we’ve been out delivering has been great. Our large high street-facing windows have doubled up as a display space for artwork and poetry because the team wanted to do something positive for the local community. And we have put aside £500 for a Christmas window.
“I think the coming months will be challenging, and trying to protect physical, mental and economic health at the same time is near impossible. I take a day at a time, and remember that one day it will come to an end.
“My most positive experiences of this pandemic have been the joy of the small: people smiling, using technology to keep in touch and dancing around on video meetings. Another has been community concern: people helping and looking out for others. And of course, small business grants that have helped the Ignition Brewery.
“I hope that everyone holds firm and gets through to Spring. This will probably be the worst of it and then hopefully a vaccine or medication will be developed that means things change for the better.”
We spoke to Nick in November 2020.