Community is at the heart and soul of everything we do here at Sutton House

Published : Sun 1st Nov Author : Gemma Bending, Community & Learning Manager

Gemma Bending is Community & Learning Manager at Sutton House, in Hackney. Here she talks to us about the amazing variety of her role, from designing school workshops to organising flashmobs with broomsticks!

I always knew I wanted to work at the Trust, but when I joined as a volunteer I had no idea that three years later I’d be in the job I’m doing now!

My role is incredibly varied and while it does exist across Trust properties with community involvement in place, it’s one that comes in all manner of shapes and sizes. We’re an urban property here, and unique because of our location in East London. We’re also a really small team, so there’s often a bit of crossover in each other’s roles.

Community is at the heart and soul of everything we do, and there’s a huge appetite for our work here in Hackney. I look after the wide variety of community groups that come through the doors of Sutton House, which range from the ages of 5 up to 90! I also manage our schools programme here, which includes designing workshops and after-school sessions.

Every day is different at Sutton House. A great example of this is when we recently opened our garden last August, Breaker’s Yard, for our community groups to co-ordinate an intergenerational flashmob. Our thinking behind the idea was that it would bring in a whole new range of visitors, who might not ordinarily visit the property and give them a big surprise. On the day it was a huge success, and we had everyone from teenagers to ladies over 70 dancing to Milkshake by Kelis with broomsticks!

Another example of the constant variety from week to week was Halloween, where I juggled managing an art activity for our family events, decorating the house with cobwebs and pumpkins, and setting up a puppet theatre before organising some last-minute tweets and other social media activity!

It’s really exciting to be part of the team here because even though we’re small, collectively we always feel like we could be doing more and so we’re always looking to push ourselves. We’re also incredibly lucky, as we have endless potential to challenge the norm and take on some amazing projects with a range of community groups. In fact, often our biggest challenge is trying to narrow them down and decide which idea we should focus on!