Paddy power

Paddy Lyons has raised nearly £2,500 for Chickenshed Theatre
Paddy Lyons has raised nearly £2,500 for Chickenshed Theatre

Pensioner raises thousands for his beloved local theatre, writes Andrew Warshaw

Everyone remembers ‘Captain Tom’, full name Sir Captain Thomas Moore, who raised millions of pounds for charity at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – a real feel-good story that united the nation.

Now Enfield has its own version of Captain Tom, in the guise of Paddy Lyons. For the past few weeks, 85-year-old Paddy has been walking 78 laps daily around his garden – rain or shine – to raise funds for his beloved Chickenshed Theatre.

As reported in the Dispatch last month, the popular Cockfosters venue, like much of the arts industry, has been decimated financially since it was forced to close its doors back in March. Chickenshed’s inclusive and diverse creative process is renowned nationally and internationally, their purpose-built theatre spaces playing host to a huge range of productions, courses and activities throughout the year, offering a welcoming hub to a community of all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

Chickenshed has now launched a much-needed fundraising campaign, aiming to raise a whopping £500,000 to secure its future. Paddy’s own fundraising efforts have seen him walk 100 miles in as many days, half-a-mile in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. He has now raised more than £2,400 for the theatre. But he’s not intending to stop yet.

As he completed yet another afternoon’s pacing round the garden, Paddy told me: “I’ve changed my slogan from ‘and I will walk 100 miles’ to ‘and I will walk 100 more’.

“I didn’t know how much I could raise and initially set the bar at £1,000. I had no intention originally of carrying on but the support has been fantastic.

“It will help Chickenshed and keep me fit so there’s a double purpose. I was inspired by Captain Tom and having been involved with Chickenshed for the best part of 40 years it was a no-brainer. All my family members have belonged there at one time or another. You go there and you immediately feel at home, whether you’re 85 or 15.”

Paddy is no ordinary retired 85-year-old. He was a Cistercian monk in the 1960s, when he didn’t speak a single word for four years, and about which he has had a book published. He has also been a journalist in the oil industry, worked as communications director of a national children’s charity, and spent time in management training.

But this has been by far the most rewarding and challenging experience for this most modest of men. “It was really tough during the heatwave because I was already semi-exhausted just coping with the weather,” Paddy recalled. “At times I have to stop because of my back. But Chickenshed is vital to the local community.”

While his daily walks have kept him on his toes, literally and figuratively, he has had to be careful not to stray off course – even for a few feet.

“I’m not allowed to use the bottom third of the garden because my wife, Elsie, had new grass laid and doesn’t want me trampling through it!

“I’m not sure exactly when I’ll stop but the plan is to get to 200 miles if I can manage it.”

Support Paddy’s Chickenshed fundraiser: