We’ve known the TPPSG was over 30 years old but didn’t know more. However,Kate Calvert and Neerja Vasishtarecently talked to the founders. Happy 36th birthday, TPPSG!

Back in 1978 there were two new mothers in Archibald Road – Sue Berger, and Michael-Ann Mullen. Sue had been born in London, left when her parents moved, and then came back. Michael-Ann came from Michigan, arrivinghere in the late ‘60s to visit her sister, and never quite going back. Not least among the reasons was the experience of driving to work in the US as a history teacher and hearing the radio give the latest Vietnam body counts.

Back in London, Michael-Ann, working now as a freelance photographer, was the first to move in. Sue arrived two doors down four years later and introduced herself. They both had new sons and their NCT contact commented that there was little for mothers in the area – a One O’Clock Club at Parliament Hill and a singing class was about where it ended. She suggested that they create a meet-up group, and Sue and Michael-Ann did just that.

They put up notices in the local newsagent and the library, told the Caversham and Goodinge Health Centres, and organised little coffee gatherings in someone’s house, or in Dalmeny Park.

In those days the group didn’t extend very far – the few streets round Archibald Road, perhaps as far as Foxham Gardens, but no more. There was no membership fee, people just came with their offspring and chatted, and the group created its own momentum with a phone list for contacting others. There was an informal babysitting circle, with a system of credits to be exchanged, but not much more. A couple of fathers tried going along to the teas but didn’t feel as comfortable as the mums so simply did their own thing with their kids.

Both Michael-Ann’s son Zebedee and Sue’s son and daughter Tom and Rosie attended the community-run Holloway Neighbourhood Group Nursery in a house just off Holloway Road on Lorraine Road, admitting however that being a participating parent did involve quite a lot of time and effort. But by then both of them were back to work – Sue rather later because her public sector employment terms offered her nine months of maternity leave.

Sue had been living in Kentish Town employed as a community and housing worker at the Camden Law Centre. She was not impressed at the idea of moving as far out as Tufnell Park, but came to see the benefit, not least the creation of Dalmeny Park from what seems to have been an old tennis club, just as her son was born.

The streets in those days were mixed, they say over coffee at Michael-Ann’s house, not least because property prices were a world away from today’s, with a whole house costing £19,000. That was still too much for public sector employees like Sue who co-bought in a group of three. They both say the social profile changed in the ‘90s when the price of housing went up, bringing gentrification.

Sue and Michael-Ann are delighted to know that the organisation is still going after its simple beginnings, still supporting local parents, and are amused to hear it’s even a factor attracting parents to the area.
However, Michael-Ann noted that when her daughter-in-law was living here with her baby, she was hesitant to come to TPPSG teas where she didn’t know anyone, and preferred to attend the relaxed and mixed groups she met at the Willow Centre. To address this kind of reticence, Sue and Michael-Ann thought perhaps TPPSG members could offer to buddy with new members, attending a couple of teas with them to help things feel a bit less daunting.

So in the spirit of Sue and Michael-Ann reaching out to create this group, we invite current members to play their part too. If you’d be willing to be a buddy to a new member, or are a new member who would prefer to talk to just one new person to start with, let us know and we’ll look to match you up.

One step on from that, sometimes there are new parents in our area who are not members and struggling with the bigger picture. This is more complicated but if you’d be interested in facilitating local parents acting as mentors or even just listening ears, email chair@tppsg.org to discuss it further.

Lastly, with all the members now out there, the TPPSG is a home to potential collaborators. So if you want to test drive any ideas you have,whether for a street playgroup or a book group or something else, please post your proposals and invitations to fortnightly@tppsg.org.ukto draw other people in. Maybe it will be you being interviewed in 36 years!