Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 11.12.46A creative and art loving member of a community inclusion project based at ARC, wishes the Queen well ahead of her birthday, which he thinks she may spend ‘celebrating with the bairns’.

Tom Knott, who was born in April 1926 – just eight days earlier than the reigning monarch – marked his 90th birthday last week with a big celebration led by the Staying Out group, which he attends each week at ARC.

He shared some special memories with ARC staff on the Queen’s Coronation, and made a guess at how she would be celebrating her own special milestone:

“I think the Royals are marvellous, they do a great job. And there’s no other country in the world who does pomp and ceremony quite the same, we’re very good at that!

“I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday celebrating here with the Staying Out group, and when they brought the cake out I was delighted. I hope the Queen has a great day, I think she will probably celebrate her 90th with her family and have a get together, with the little bairns of course.”

Tom, who was born in Sunderland and is a former construction worker, has lived in various parts of the country over the years before moving to Stockton in 1953, and took up a job working for Middlesbrough Council’s construction services.

He was one of the first attendees of the Staying Out project and was referred after a short spell in hospital, which came after losing his beloved wife of 65 years.

Tom said: “Coming to this project at ARC has really filled a big gap in my life since my wife died.

“The first time I came I said ‘where do the men sit?!’ – it was full of women for the first few sessions, but they were all very welcoming, and now there are a few more men, and we all get on smashing together. We all have something in common and it’s the highlight of my week to come here and socialise, it’s great.”

He also spoke about his other memories of the Queen such as her Coronation in 1953:

“It was a great day, I remember the Coronation well. There must have been 15 to 20 of us packed in a room the size of a cupboard, watching this tiny black and white screen. The box that surrounded the screen was twice the size of the screen itself, it was great to watch though” he joked.

The Staying Out project takes place every Wednesday at ARC. Participants receive a hot meal, and can get involved with different arts based activities to enhance their wellbeing and mental and physical health. The project aims to support some of the most isolated people in Stockton and Hartlepool, on their discharge from hospital, to live healthy and fulfilling lives.