Loneliness campaign-inspired Friendship Lunches extended across the region

IT STARTED with a simple idea to help those who are lonely or isolated - invite them along for a good meal with good company.

The fourth Friendship Lunch took place at the Durham Ox at Crayke yesterday. Picture by Simon Hulme

More than 200 people have attended Friendship Lunches at The Durham Ox in Crayke since they launched in February, including more than 50 yesterday.

Now the lunches, which were inspired by The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign are rolling out to six more venues across North Yorkshire in a bid to help more people suffering from loneliness or social isolation become part of a welcoming community.

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Michael Ibbotson, managing director of Provenance Inns, which owns The Durham Ox, said seeing the impact the lunches had on those who attended prompted him to roll out the initiative across his other venues.

OPEN DOOR: Guy Richardson, general manager of the Crown and Cushion in Malton, which is hosting a Friendship Lunch on June 1. Picture: Gary Longbottom.

He said: “The Friendship Lunches continue to grow and we are delighted with how popular they are. There has obviously been a demand for this kind of event and through a good support network of local community groups who helped us launch the lunches and our Durham Ox regulars, we continue to see new faces as well as welcome back familiar ones.

“We have no doubt that the roll out into the rest of the Provenance Inns group in June will highlight the opportunity for the Friendship Lunch not only in rural communities but across the county.”

The lunches have been supported by parish councils, groups and charities including Age UK, and the pub has helped with transport for those who need it.

Mr Ibbotson added: “Each luncheon has been bursting at the seams, so we have clearly hit a nerve. They are so community focused and with their popularity, it was obvious to roll them out to our other inns. Inviting a friend for lunch was the concept, and we couldn’t have wished for a more rewarding outcome.”

The first new Friendship Lunch takes place at The Crown and Cushion in Welburn on Monday June 1 at 12pm. It will be followed by The Carpenters Arms, Felixkirk, on June 2; The Black Bull Inn, Moulton and The Punch Bowl Inn, Marton cum Grafton, Harrogate on June 8; The Durham Ox on June 10; and at The Oak Tree Inn, Helperby, Boroughbridge and The West Park Hotel, Harrogate on June 15.

Guy Richardson, general manager at The Crown and Cushion said: “The surrounding district includes many outlaying villages where people may feel a bit isolated. It will be lovely to get everybody together, especially after seeing the success of the lunches at the Ox,”

The announcement comes as Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic has been shortlisted alongside newspaper campaigns across the country for an award recognising the impact it has made on its community. The Making a Difference award, held as part of Local Newspaper Week, is voted for by the public.

Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic, launched in February 2014, with two main aims, for loneliness to be universally recognised as a health priority in our communities and to encourage our readers to volunteer for support services. Seven local authorities who previously failed to address the issue have now pledged action. Last year the campaign won the Making a Difference award, and the newspaper will find out on Friday if it has repeated the feat.

The fourth Friendship Lunch took place at the Durham Ox at Crayke yesterday. Picture by Simon Hulme

Nicola Furbisher, managing editor of The Yorkshire Post, said: “It has been wonderful to see an idea inspired by our campaign grow and reach so many people. It is clear to see how this important campaign is not only influencing policy makers and politicians, but people in our own communities to play their part in tackling loneliness.”

To vote for the loneliness campaign to win the Making a Difference award, click here.

The fourth Friendship Lunch took place at the Durham Ox at Crayke yesterday. Picture by Simon Hulme