Loneliness campaigned-inspired lunches continue to thrive

FRIENDSHIP lunches that have thrived since they launched on the first anniversary of The Yorkshire Post’s Loneliness campaign are gearing up for their final events of the year.

The Frienship Lunches began at the Durham Ox in February. Pictured is owner Michael Ibbotson with supporters of the lunches.

Hundreds of people have attended monthly get together at the Durham Ox in Crayke since they launched in February.

The pubs owners, Michael and Sasha Ibbotson, were inspired by the Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign to start the event, which uses good food and good company to tackle social isolation in rural communities.

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The initial lunches, which were supported by parish councils, groups and charities including Age UK, were such a success that they were rolled out to six other Provenance Inns venues in June.

May's Friendship Lunch at the Durham Ox. Picture by Simon Hulme

Mrs Ibbotson said: “The lunches are working really well and we’re finding that they are very much appreciated. They are being supported in all the pubs, and the hotel, and there has absolutely been the demand for it.”

It was hoped that using a meal as a social practice would provide a “doorstep to friendship” for many people who might not get the chance to get out of the house very often.

Mrs Ibbotson said the communal ethos of the lunches had proved to be a real hit, with individuals booking a spot on a large table and garnering new friendships over the course of the year. Groups are also helping to provide transport to get people to the events.

“We now have people ringing up, and saying, ‘put me next to Mrs so-and-so’, and because they know the day of the lunch each month, it becomes a date in the diary,” she said.

May's Friendship Lunch at the Durham Ox. Picture by Simon Hulme

“Even from the staff’s point of view, there’s a real buzz when it’s coming up as we see how much people enjoy it.”

The next lunch takes place at the Durham Ox on Monday, November 9, with the final event of the year on Monday December 14. Book on 01347 821506.

Monthly lunches will also take place at The Crown and Cushion, Welburn; The Carpenters Arms, Felixkirk; The Black Bull Inn, Moulton; The Punch Bowl Inn, Marton cum Grafton; The Oak Tree Inn, Helperby, and The West Park Hotel, Harrogate. Contact the individual venue for more details.