Bell House’s inaugural Dyslexia Fair in September saw 700 parents, children and educational professionals arrive through the door to access resources, information and support for those with dyslexia. They came for the opportunity to talk to the 20 dyslexia specialists who were exhibiting that day, and to hear talks and workshops delivered by professionals in the field. The house buzzed with ideas exchanged and knowledge imparted. The sheer number of guests, and the distances they travelled (as far afield as Brighton and Romford), demonstrates the crucial role that Bell House charity is starting to play as a hub for dyslexia support. The Dyslexia Fair allowed more people to find out how Bell House supports dyslexia - future courses on Supporting the Dyslexic Learner are now fully booked. Bell House are also working in collaboration with Helen Arkell Dyslexia Charity to run dyslexia assessments - a vital step in accessing good support at school.
This old Georgian house, with its garden, was bought two years ago by an educational charity now named Bell House Dulwich. Since then a team of volunteers have been hard at work turning what was a private house into a beautiful welcoming home for the community; a place where people can unleash their creativity and learn in ways not catered for by the mainstream curriculum. Initially, this has meant a lot of work on the fabric of the house itself. Committed renovators (Andrew, Richard, and Merlin) are restoring and insulating the house’s 54 windows and Matt the bricklayer has been repairing the walls and the ha-ha in front of the house. And of course, they have repaired the eponymous bell tower. Listen carefully and you will hear it ring out when a new guest is shown around the house!
The restorative work has allowed more and more people to experience Bell House.
Alongside the focus on dyslexia support, Bell House runs creative and educational courses and events. The newly renovated front rooms offer a home to the Quilting Academy, who run a drop-in session every Thursday teaching people their skills. Dan Robb, one of our film makers joined them weekly to make a film about the group, now on our YouTube channel. Local volunteers have run creative writing courses, poetry meetings and cookery courses. The renovation of the Gardeners’ Kitchen has supported the ever-growing group of garden volunteers, who now meet every Saturday and Wednesday morning to learn from each other how to maintain the gardens surrounding Bell House. The beautiful gardens house the apiary, allowing us to run courses on beekeeping and honey. Bell House filmmakers have filmed many of these courses, so they can be accessed by even more people.
This is just the beginning - we are working on a community project called Learning to Care, which will use events and short films to educate and support those who find themselves looking after their older family members and neighbours, with the first event organised for November. An adult literacy group will be meeting here twice a week in the new year, teaching vital reading and writing skills. The ‘Wednesday gardeners’ are working to make the walled garden a community vegetable garden, with an opportunity for local people and community groups to experience the physical and mental health benefits of learning gardening. Revision workshops and touch-typing courses for young people with dyslexia are planned for the new year, alongside a continuing schedule of talks on the topic.
The house and charity have greatly benefited from people’s help, giving time and support in organising events or courses. Financial support from generous individuals has maintained the house - fixing the step in the front porch for example and repairing an old roof. With this period of expansion Bell House needs more people to get involved. We are a volunteer led organisation, with only one permanent position co-ordinating the activities. Whatever your specialism - from gardening to coding - Bell House would love to see where you could fit in, so you can be part of this new venture in Dulwich. If you want to know what’s going on you can join the mailing list at www.bellhouse.co.uk.