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BARBICAN LIFE


Inspiring Individuals Audrey Ballard


The Tuesday Club is a social forum for Barbican neighbours, set up by Rose Croot in the Barbican’s early days and run by the charming, lively, quick witted and immaculately groomed Audrey Ballard from the late 1980’s until 2011. She has lived in the Barbican since 1974 with her husband of sixty six years. Stephanie Ross talks to Audrey about London’s East End in the 1920's and '30's, enjoying life and living in the Barbican.


A


udrey Ballard is one of the people that you cross paths with in life who lifts your spirits. She is ninety years old, incredibly


positive, energetic - continues to swim regularly at Golden Lane pool - and has many friends.


She was born in London’s East End in April 1922 – an area that was still in the throes of economic depression. Her father was an engineer, who among other employment supervised the digging of wells for big City firms. He had steady work – many others didn’t. With no Social Security or NHS


Audrey’s mother set an outstanding example in helping others. She distributed food to neighbours; ran weekend and holiday camps for deprived kids through the Children’s Circle of the London Co-operative Movement; helped at Toynbee Hall with the Workers Educational Association (where Audrey met members of the Bloomsbury Group); also ran a small concert party with her husband - performing at various venues for disadvantaged people. Audrey’s mother was a committed Socialist and entertained a fair few Labour politicians. Money was tight. Audrey took babysitting work at an early age to buy her first bicycle. She was also active in The Congregational Church Sunday School, Girls Life Brigade and swam competitively for the London Co- Operative Movement. The whole family worked hard, yet they also had a full and busy social life. They attended weekly socials where Audrey became an accomplished dancer. In the evenings her grandad was the spot-light operator at the Stratford


Empire and so the family would see every Monday night’s first performance free of charge. Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyons didn’t pay him his fee one night so the spot-light missed them until they did!


Although Audrey was a bright schoolgirl a serious accident forced her dad out of work and Audrey out of school into secretarial employment in her early teens.


During the bombing of London during World War II the family were evacuated to relatives in St Albans. Audrey worked as an instrument tester – pressure-venting instruments for the De Havilland Mosquito. Merlin aircraft would rev their engines outside her hut – leading to her permanent partial deafness.


St Albans was a garrison town with a pretty lively social life. Audrey and her friend Grace enjoyed going out and dancing. Audrey met her husband Denis, who was in the Royal Army Services Corp, as she was rolling a barrel of widely unavailable beer over to a party. They married in 1945 and despite severe rationing managed to rustle up an impressive wedding celebration. The years following the war were very


hard. Audrey was working part-time as a secretary, raising two young daughters and running the Young Wives Club while her husband worked his way up a City career in Chartered Accountancy. But by the mid-60’s life had stabilized. The children were growing up and the family moved into a much bigger house where they regularly entertained clients. By 1974 Audrey and her husband moved to the Barbican, made new friends and became involved in many local organizations. In 1986 Audrey’s


husband retired for the first time aged sixty-six and took a Bachelor of Arts degree in Archaeology at University College London. After that he resumed work and retired for the second time in 2012! Audrey continued working as a part time secretary at the Cripplegate Institute and later the Honorary Artillery Company. Over these years she has also cultivated a significant interest in antiques with George III being a particularly favorite period. She took over running the Tuesday Club to continue its work of providing a regular social forum for older people in Barbican. Audrey and Denis enjoy spending time with friends and family. They continue to support events at the Aldersgate Ward Club (of which Audrey was the first woman master in 1983 and later Chairman), and of course the Tuesday Club under the new Chairmanship of June Giles.


Audrey Ballard


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