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Meet Channel 4's new star presenters - 100-year-old Beattie and Millie

Jewish Care members have been introducing programmes to mark centenary of women being granted the vote

    Two East Enders have this week been introducing Hollyoaks, First Dates Hotel and many other Channel 4 programmes to mark the centenary of women being granted the vote.

    Beattie Orwell and Millie Finger, both 100 and regulars at Jewish Care's Brenner Centre at Stepney Community Centre, have recorded solo and joint intros reflecting on how life was when they were young.

    Born in Aldgate, Mrs Orwell was the baby of three sisters. Her father died when she was young and she was brought up by her mother to be strong and independent. She was active in the fight against Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts and later served as a Labour Tower Hamlets councillor. In 1966 her husband John was appointed mayor of the borough and she recalls meeting the Queen and then Tory leader Edward Heath during his mayoral year.

    More recently, she met Ed Miliband when he was Labour leader, speaking passionately to him about issues close to her heart such as care for the elderly.

    She sees a lot of her three children, 12 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

    Mrs Finger celebrated her 100th birthday with a party thrown for her at the Jewish Care centre. Following the death of her daughter a few years ago, she says her involvement in the centre has "given me a reason to live".

    “The suffragettes were marvellous,” Mrs Orwell told the JC.

    “I’ve voted every time since I was allowed to. We used to walk round with banners and tell people who to vote for. I always loved politics.”

    But, Mrs Finger explained, career options were more limited in the past: “When we were young, you worked to work. You didn’t want to do something particular. There was a war and we had to feed our family.

    "We didn’t have aspirations in them days — it was about survival.”

    Both women, who live independently in council flats, are enjoying their brush with celebrity, having recorded solo and joint intros at the Jewish Care centre reflecting on how life was when they were young.

    “I love it,” Mrs Finger said. “All of a sudden people want to know us. It didn’t happen before.”

    One of the biggest changes during her lifetime had been the sexual liberation of women. 

    “These days, you have a cup of tea and go and sleep with one another. In my day, if a fella kissed me I thought I was pregnant. 

    “I was so nervous. But women know more now.”

    Mrs Orwell, who plans to put her fee from Channel 4 towards a Spanish holiday with family members,  concurred. “In my day, you would go and buy a bag of chips and get a date by sharing them with the boys. If you were lucky, they would ask you out.”

    In the age of online dating, “you don’t know who you’ve got on the other end of a screen. I wouldn’t trust them.

    “You might be lucky but you might not. I’ve got a granddaughter who shows me these things.”

    Mrs Finger’s favourite invention was the television. For Mrs Orwell, it was the sewing machine. 

    “We used to do it by hand; the machine changed everything.”

    Friends from childhood, they lost contact after marriage but were reunited through attending the Stepney centre.

    “We didn’t talk about the past and what happened in the war,” said Mrs Finger.

    “We wanted to forget it.” And in a smiling reference to her friend, she joked: “I can’t get rid of her now.”

    Jewish Care head of PR Lisa Wimborne said the duo had "thoroughly enjoyed the morning of filming and being in the spotlight. Members of the centre are delighted that Channel 4 will be paying the day centre a location fee that will be spent on a special activity for everyone’s benefit."

     

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