Here at #WeAreWoking HQ, we love talking to local people. Everyone has a different story, and everyone we talk to leaves us inspired and energised.
We caught up with Louise Irvine, who has lived in Woking all her life. She works at local charity LinkAble and is passionate about supporting people with learning difficulties.
So, Louise, what does working at LinkAble mean to you?
The charity means a lot to me because it has given me the opportunity to meet and develop relationships with a huge range of people, from my colleagues in the office to the other play workers and, most importantly, the service users themselves.
My brother’s got learning difficulties, so I’ve known about this charity since basically when I was born. I started working for them when I was going off to university. I knew that they ran the play schemes here and also my old piano teacher runs the choir here. So, I’ve had lots of links to LinkAble!
I’ve been here about four or five years doing holiday schemes and now I do office work as well as working with the adults. I run a healthy living course and a cooking course with the adults, and then during the holidays and the weekends I work with kids.
You sound very passionate about your work!
I strongly believe that people with learning difficulties can too often get left behind and not have their wants and needs taken as seriously, so knowing that the work I do gives them more opportunities – be that social, recreational, or educational (such as some of the life skills courses I run), and allows them to lead happier more fulfilling lives – is really important to me.
At the end of the day, people with learning difficulties are the same as anyone else, they just require some extra support in certain situations.
I also know that our work allows parents and carers to take some hard-earned time off, and I have seen first-hand how much of a difference that can make for them. So, for me, working at LinkAble means making a real difference to the lives of people with learning difficulties and their families.
So, we know you love your job, now tell us what you love about Woking.
I love Woking theatre! I’m one of those people, anytime something comes to town, I’m always there. Growing up, I was in productions in the Rhoda McGaw and in Billy Elliot in the New Victoria Theatre. I have fun memories from in all the theatres and being backstage.
What was it like growing up in Woking?
My best friend has lived in Woking most of her life, too. We went to nursery together and we stayed in touch all the way. Woking is really at the centre of our existence. I think there is a really great sense of community in Woking.
As teenagers, we would just hang out in the Wheatsheaf Park and enjoy the grass and the swings. You always want space that is your own when you’re young.
There’s always so much going on in the town, it makes it an exciting place to be. A great memory of mine is the Food & Drink Festival during the 2012 Olympics.
The Woking Food & Drink Festival runs every year. What do you think of it these days?
The Food & Drink Festival is always a highlight. It’s amazing and it’s free, which is astounding! Most places when they do that sort of festival make you pay an entry fee so it’s great.
Sounds like you like to get out and about! Where do you like to socialise?
There’s the Cellar Magneval, which is a wine and cheese place by the station which is really nice. They also do French nights once a month. I did French at university and go there so I have the opportunity to speak the language more. The guy who runs it is French and they have really nice wines and cheeses.
There’s another great place called Marsiano Lounge, they do a great quiz night on a Monday.
As a young resident, what are your thoughts on how the Town Centre is changing?
Woking is moving in a good direction. A lot is changing but it’s also growing. Woking is on a journey. I really like Jubilee Square now they’ve redone it. I love it on a sunny day. It’s become a real hub with a lot more going on.
Over the summer, we had all the big games in the Square – they had a massive Connect Four and a chess game and deck chairs and things, it was really cool. It really makes it feel like more of a community having that sort of area where people can congregate. People do sit there more now, especially on nice sunny days. It’s a really nice place.
We love your take on Woking, Louise. If you could sum up the town in a sentence, what would it be?
I feel like Woking is full of life – there is a bustle about the town, there’s always lots of people around and I feel like the heart of the community is growing.
Thanks so much, Louise. It’s great to hear from such an inspiring person who lives right here as part of our community – and who loves it as much as we do!
Find out more about Louise’s inspiring work at LinkAble.org.uk