An interview with Elizabeth Colwell

Elizabeth Colwell is a yoga enthusiast, a keen knitter and a volunteer at the Tate Modern. When she’s not doing one of these things she can be seen out and about in East London on one of her two bikes.

Are you local to East London?

I suppose I think of myself as ‘local’ as I’ve lived in Walthamstow for nearly 30 years, almost 20 of these were in Coppermill lane.

Have you always lived here?

No, I’m originally from Wales, with family still there. I trained as a teacher in Cardiff and got my first teaching job in Hackney in the early 70s. I’ve been in London almost all of my working life, although I did return to Wales for about 9 years to teach.

What do you like most about the area?

I absolutely love Walthamstow! Mostly the diversity, the community — especially around the market and in Coppermill Lane. Since opening, The Mill on Coppermill Lane has really helped me to get to know people who live nearby. I love going there for the weekly knitting groups, where I’ve made a lot of friends.

Transport links in Walthamstow are great and it is especially good for cycling, which is my main transport. I shop mostly in the market which I love, but if I ever need big shops Westfield is about 20 minutes on my bike. Proximity to the marshes is perfect for dog walking and watching the seasons change is like living in the country… but better.

Walthamstow has felt like living in a secret part of London a bit under the radar. I think this is changing now as more and more young people are moving in, but it can only be a good thing as we all have to change and adapt.

Can you tell us your age?

I’m 64! I can’t believe this.

How long have you been doing yoga?

Yoga is fairly new to me as I have always favoured Pilates, which I have done for the past 10 years. However, I’m really pleased that I’ve joined my yoga class at The Health Works as it’s perfect for me. As I’ve got older I’ve wanted more stretching and relaxing. Another nice thing about the class is that there is a mix of ages, I’m not really interested in events that are only organized for older people.

Do you think yoga has made a difference to your general health?

I intend to keep as mobile and active as I can for as long as I can and yoga helps me to do this. I use the stretches I have learnt every morning and evening to get going and wind down! It fits perfectly with other things I do and is easily incorporated with daily life.

How else do you keep active?

My husband and I walk our neighbours’ dog daily. It’s good for the dog and it gives my husband and me a bit of time to natter and catch up. I also cycle every day and just bought a power-assisted bike from the Just E-Bikes shop on Portabello Road. I also have another bike that I use for shorter journeys. This bike is Japanese and I got it from the Mamachari shop on Forest Road.

I am a member if my local church, which is an important part of my life and somewhere where I can be peaceful and mindful. It is good to give thanks for how lucky I am.

Do you do have any other interests?

Yes, I have also been a member of the WI (Women’s Institute) for 7 years. I joined the Bethnal Green group, as I don’t think the Walthamstow WI existed then. We do all sorts of things in our group, such as historical talks, craft evenings and charity events, although it is a non-political group. I particularly enjoyed recently making twiddle muffs for Bart’s Trust Dementia group. Our WI group is always looking for new members if anyone is interested!

I’m also involved in the Walthamstow Wetlands project, trying to work out how to get hard-to-reach groups interested in visiting. We’re currently working on an exciting art project knitting urban swifts designed by Deirdre Nelson.

We’ve heard that you volunteer at the Tate Modern, can you tell us about it?

This is the most fantastic thing I have ever done and is fairly recent. Volunteering at Tate Modern has completely opened my eyes to all the art I know nothing about at all. I am learning a massive amount about artists I have never heard of and meeting lots of interesting, lovely people, especially young people. I think this is part of the key to successful ageing: learning and remaining open to new and exciting challenges and stepping out of your comfort zone. Meeting visitors, many from overseas, is a joy and helping them plan their visit is quite a privilege.

I can thoroughly recommend ‘The Radical Eye’ exhibition, which is one of Elton John’s collections of photos. It is on until May 2017. I’m also looking forward to the new Robert Rauschenberg Exhibition, which I haven’t been to yet.

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