Throughout 2020, I volunteered at my local Age UK. In December 2020, I was interviewed for a feature in the first Age UK Croydon newsletter.
Can you introduce yourself, and say a little about what you do?
Hello, I'm Samantha Warren, a Croydon resident and a printed textiles designer. I run two creative businesses, one of which is Scene in Croydon which is an initiative celebrating Croydon though illustration and design. The other is Samantha Warren. The prints 'Coneflowers' and 'French Lavender' were drawn in the Age UK Croydon garden!
Your first contact with Age UK Croydon was your sharing of the Scene in Croydon colouring competition. Can you tell us more about that?
Scene in Croydon was born from a desire to challenge the perception of Croydon as a grey urban jungle by celebrating the beauty and diversity of the area through design. As a Croydon resident, I wanted to use my design skills to deliver this message and Colour Croydon was a great extension of this. It started as a simple creative activity for people stuck in doors during lockdown. I created colouring in sheets which people could download and colour in. I was then approached by The Museum of Croydon as they loved the idea and offered to host an online exhibition of the submitted artworks on their site. It was a great collaboration and so many Croydon residents took part, it was wonderful! I provided some of the colouring in sheets to Age UK Croydon for inclusion in their grocery bags which I thought might be a welcomed activity for customers.
You volunteered to help pack emergency parcels at our Food & Essentials Hub. Was there a reason you wanted to help Age UK Croydon specifically? How was your experience volunteering during the initial lockdown?
I recently became aware of the importance of services and support for the elderly as my father had a stroke in 2018. I live around the corner from Age UK Croydon and could see on social media that you were looking for volunteers to help with deliveries, donating food and packing bags. I had donated on a couple of occasions, and eventually inquired about becoming a volunteer. Vulnerable people in our community needed help, and I was lucky enough to be in a position to offer my support. I thoroughly enjoy being part of a positive and committed team, and helping to bring relief to people in the community.
Some of our food hub volunteers also helped to keep our garden watered during the summer, and you continued as a garden volunteer after the food hub closed. It’s very different to the hub – how have you enjoyed being a garden volunteer, as a local resident, Age UK Croydon volunteer, and artist?
I am really enjoying being a garden volunteer. I don't have a garden so from a purely selfish point of view, it's wonderful being outdoors, especially when we were only allowed for one hour a day of outdoor activity, and not allowed to stop or sit down. The garden allowed me outdoor time without the need to rush for fear of breaking the law. I do find gardening very therapeutic and it's been a much-welcomed activity which helps break up my week. It's rewarding to know that I am also helping Age UK Croydon to maintain their beautiful garden so that it's in good shape for when the community can return again. As an artist, downtime and headspace are really important ingredients in being able to create, so I thank Age UK Croydon for inviting me to help maintain the garden as it benefits me greatly too.
Sketching in the Age UK garden.
Drawing of the Coneflowers in the Age UK garden.
We are honoured that you have chosen to donate profits sales of one of your prints to Age UK Croydon. Why were we chosen?
I am really impressed by the service Age UK Croydon provide and I wanted to extend my support for the charity through my design work.
It also allows me to raise awareness of Age UK Croydon and promote the fantastic work you do to my creative network and customers.
Coneflowers print available here.
French Lavender print available here.
Croydon Heart print available here.
You often speak of your parents, and in doing so touch on things that are relevant to the work we do. You’ve spoken about your heritage, supporting your father after his stroke, your mother’s work as a carer, and your concerns for your family during lock down. Would you feel comfortable sharing some of this with our audience?
My dad is in his mid 70's and has slowed down since his stroke. He has always been a very active and independent man, so it's been a challenging time for him but my family are a close-knit team. We are lucky as we're all nearby and can chip in and help out if needed. But this is not the case for some elderly people and I think London can be quite an isolating place. That's why I think Age UK Croydon is so important and a real lifeline to many older people. My mother is a carer and has worked throughout the pandemic. I am very proud of her and I guess my desire to help is inspired by her.