West Lothian 50+ Network – History
1993 was designated by the European Parliament as the Year of the Elderly and of Solidarity between Generations. This lead to West Lothian community education workers Jim Dixon and Annette Lambourne being asked to set up a local project with a European dimension and MEP David Martin suggested a visit by a group of people aged over 50 to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The whole experience proved so successful that the 33 West Lothian representatives decided to stay in touch and form a network for older people’s organisations.
Under Jim Dixon’s guidance the network became a registered charity with the aims of advancing education through the development of 50+ groups by encouraging social, educational and recreational activities.
Over time members acquired funds from various sources to allow the group to grow, including funding from the National Lottery and Big Lottery. Since then they have enjoyed holidays to places as far-flung as Jerusalem, China and Trinidad and Tobago (and places closer to home like Braemar and Oban), along with trips to the Robert Burns Museum, Dumfries House, The Kelpies and the Edinburgh Tattoo.
To mark the 20th anniversary in 2014, long-standing committee member Mary Ferrie wrote a book detailing the history of the network and a special information day/craft fair was held in the Regal Theatre in Bathgate. A celebratory dinner was also held with 129 people, including members and special guests, at the Legion Scotland. It was attended by Jim Dixon and original members Bill Burrows and Betty Henderson cut the cake. Guests were entertained by William Strachan, a tenor who has sung with the D’Oyly Carte and Scottish Opera and has appeared in West End musicals. He was accompanied by David Mackie, who has also appeared with the D’Oyly Carte Opera company, and members of the 50+ choir, The Network Singers.
The organisation now has around 400 members and over 35 special interest groups, who enjoy a wide and varied range of activities including walking, singing, bowling, quilting, genealogy, French, theatre, mahjong, cycling, bridge and pilates.