As you may have seen, this year a project called MeetUpMondays has become part of the Surviving Winter Appeal team. As well as raising much needed funds for those suffering from fuel poverty, the appeal also focuses on the loneliness felt all too often by those that are isolated. So, what better time to learn a bit more about this fantastic initiative that’s making its way into pubs, cafes and tearooms all over our county!
Launched in 2018, MeetUpMondays offers hospitality businesses the chance to strengthen their local community. The premise is simple – once a week, pubs, cafes, and tea rooms offer a couple of hours of free tea, coffee and nibbles to give those that are feeling lonely the chance to meet others and connect more with their local community.
The seed of the idea, instigated by innovative pub landlord Mick Dore at his pub in Wimbledon, was taken and sewn across Suffolk by Ann Osborn of The Rural Coffee Caravan, with the help of Sally Connick of Suffolk Good Neighbour Schemes, and has grown a network of 50+ MeetUpMondays host venues across Suffolk and beyond.
‘The environment is friendly and relaxed, ideal for those who might feel a little intimidated. Visitors are guaranteed a warm welcome, and the approach taken helps to normalise talking about loneliness without those attending feeling ‘labelled’ as lonely,’ explains Ann Osborn, Director of Rural Coffee Caravan and MeetUpMondays.
‘It gives people not just something to look forward to, but reasons to get up in the morning; new friendships to make new plans with, company and comfort after bereavement, and gives people who are fed up with their own four walls a chance to just ‘be’, in a ‘real life’ setting with company they might not otherwise have access to. Lonely people can lose confidence and get anxious about going out, and research shows us that consistency is key – offering a regular time every week and making a local setting familiar opens a whole new social world for the visitors.’
It also helps re-establish pubs as community hubs, and creates opportunities for people new to the neighbourhood a chance to meet their neighbours in a friendly, relaxed environment.
Ann Osborn, Director of Rural Coffee Caravan and MeetUpMondays
All the existing hosts are finding that there is no downside. Their guests are staying on for lunch or coming in at other times with the friends they have made. Hosts sometimes offer a table quiz or something as an ice breaker, but ultimately, introductions are encouraged and the chatter happens naturally. People that attend often find it’s the highlight of their week. Each venue is different and depends on the host’s means and the local support gathered, and every single person helped back into a more connected life, matters.
Local businesses and organisations are also on board, with Assistant Chief Constable of Suffolk Rachel Kearton the latest to join Suffolk High Sheriffs (past & present), BBC Radio Suffolk, East of England Co-op and the East Anglian Daily Times in championing the initiative.
Estate agents, solicitors and landscaping companies are amongst some of the local businesses also showing their support by sponsoring printing off flyers and pavement swing signs for their nearest MeetUpMondays sessions. It’s great to see Suffolk come together in support.
They’re not always held on Mondays either, the network caters for any day of the week ; it’s down to the venue to decide what works for them. MeetUpMondays HQ helps get the ball rolling with promotion – web and social media listings and a Welcome Pack, but the hosts are the ones taking this wonderful thing and flying with it – making their MeetUps their own.