Pull up a chair and join us: The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness campaign inspires new Friendship Lunches

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GOOD food and good company will be used to tackle social isolation in a rural community with the launch of an innovative new Friendship Lunch, inspired by The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness campaign.

The monthly get-togethers at the Durham Ox in Cryke aim to get people to reach out to members of their community who feel lonely or may not get out of the house much, and invite them along to share a meal and conversation. The first will take place on Monday February 9, as part of the commemorations for the first anniversary of the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign, which was launched in February last year after the heartbreaking scale of loneliness in the region was revealed.

Michael Ibbotson of the Durham Ox with Alex Bird from Age UK and supporters of the Friendship Lunches.''Picture by Tony Johnson

Michael Ibbotson of the Durham Ox with Alex Bird from Age UK and supporters of the Friendship Lunches.''Picture by Tony Johnson

Michael Ibbotson, managing director of Provenance Inns, which owns the Durham Ox, said: “Eating is such a social practice and has a crucial impact upon physical, social and mental health. We hope our lunches will be a doorstep to friendship for people who might not otherwise have the chance to get out and meet one another.

“I am sure everyone knows of a friend or a neighbour who might not have had a great Christmas, or spends a lot of time on their own without many visitors – and it’s up to communities like ours to get people together.”

With an increasing number of village shops and community facilities closing, Mr Ibbotson said rural communities are increasingly relying on pubs for community cohesion. It is hoped other pubs will follow suit and offer similar Friendship Lunches.

Age UK North Yorkshire has championed the initiative. The charity’s national research revealed that two fifths of older people - about 3.9m - say television is their main company.

6 January 2015.......     Michael Ibbotson of the Durham Ox in Crayke near York,  to arrange a loneliness luncheon. TJ100650e Picture by Tony Johnson

6 January 2015....... Michael Ibbotson of the Durham Ox in Crayke near York, to arrange a loneliness luncheon. TJ100650e Picture by Tony Johnson

Executive officer Alex Bird said: “Small changes and acts of kindness can make a real difference, and it’s fantastic to see pubs like The Durham Ox doing their bit to combat loneliness.

“What better place to encourage people to meet than their local pub, a great place to forge new friendships. It would be fantastic to see other pubs launching their own Friendship Lunches, as this could really make a difference in rural communities.”

The initiative also has the backing of Easingwold Community Care Association, Easingwold Town Council, Stillington Parish Council, Easingwold Methodist Church and Easingwold and District Older People’s Forum.

The Forum’s chairman, Micky Johnson, said: “I would ask the whole community to think of people they know who live alone, or don’t get out much, and offer to bring them along. As individuals, we can all do our bit to alleviate loneliness by keeping in touch with those who are alone.”

The idea has also been supported by the Absolutely Food PR & Marketing team, based in Stillington, Near York. Director Annie Stirk said: “It is a great community initiative which I am sure will bring many people together over good food in the convivial atmosphere of a great local pub.“

Managing editor of The Yorkshire Post, Nicola Furbisher, said: “Friendship Lunches have the power to make a real difference to the lives of the people who attend them. We’re thrilled our campaign inspired such a worthwhile initiative.”

In Yorkshire and the Humber, 91,300 older people are lonely, and that startling statistic prompted The Yorkshire Post to launch its loneliness campaign.

Mr Ibbotson said its was great to have the support of the newspaper. He said: “Its work highlighting this enormous social issue has been phenomenal and having their support will make a brilliant difference to our Friendship Lunch.”

To attend the lunch, or for more information, call the Ox on 01347 821506.

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