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Suffolk celebrates a year of Meet Up Mondays coffee mornings

PUBLISHED: 16:20 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 20:31 18 February 2019

Beth and Sara Benstead and Sally Connick on the first anniversary of Meet Up Mondays at The Weavers Tea Room in Peasenhall  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Beth and Sara Benstead and Sally Connick on the first anniversary of Meet Up Mondays at The Weavers Tea Room in Peasenhall Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

It warms the cockles in more ways than one - and now a network of meet-up groups across Suffolk has celebrated a year of tasty beverages and helping to combat loneliness.

Meet Up Mondays originally started in London.

However thanks to Ann Osborn from Rural Coffee Caravan and Sally Connick, from Community Action Suffolk, more than 40 venues across Suffolk have joined up to the scheme which invites people of all ages suffering from loneliness to make friends, chat and enjoy a brew or two.

Weavers Tea Room in Peasenhall, the first venue in Suffolk to hold a meet-up, celebrated the anniversary with more than 20 guests in attendance.

Mrs Connick said: “It feels brilliant to celebrate the first anniversary. I can’t believe we’ve got to this stage, when last year we were so scared that not even one venue would sign up.

Jean Whincop and Diana Allan love meeting up for a chat and a coffee at The Weavers Tea Room   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNJean Whincop and Diana Allan love meeting up for a chat and a coffee at The Weavers Tea Room Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“Holding the event in Weavers was really special. It made everything feel so real. There were seven people at our first event last year and this morning I recognised some familiar faces.

“Every time I go, I hear stories about lasting friendships being made and it’s fantastic.”

Mrs Osborn added: “When we suggested a year ago, that Suffolk pubs and cafes copy this genius idea from The Alexandra in Wimbledon, I don’t think we ever dreamed it would take off like it has. We now have 47 East Anglian hosts and another 8 nationwide. The stories from each one are so heartwarming, we know the kindness and generosity of our hosts is making a real difference to the lives of folk on their own. Our hosts are finding it very rewarding and are making new friends themselves. It’s win win!“

The events have been particularly helpful for elderly people who have recently lost their loved ones, as it introduces them to people in the community with similar interests and hobbies, helping to make genuine friendships.

Sally Connick, who co-founded Meet Up Mondays in Suffolk with Ann Osborn Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNSally Connick, who co-founded Meet Up Mondays in Suffolk with Ann Osborn Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

An average of 15 people attend each venue every week, with Mrs Connick estimating that hundreds of local people have been helped by the events.

Mrs Connick’s other endeavour, the Good Neighbour Scheme, has also aided the running of the events, offering transport to the venues and back for visitors.

Sarah Benstead, who owns Weavers Tea Room, said: “It’s a lovely thing to see every week, you get to see so many smiles on people’s faces.

“It’s a really nice thing for people to look forward to, instead of the normal weekend feeling of dreading a Monday morning coming around.”

Each venue is supplied with a goody bag, which includes coasters and window stickers, while event flyers have been donated by local estate agents Marks & Mann.

More information, including a map of venues across the county, can be found online here.

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