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'It's a lifeline': The volunteer clubs and coffee mornings beating social isolation in Peterborough

Coffee mornings, tea clubs and lunch clubs – how different events organised across Peterborough by volunteers are helping beat social isolation and loneliness. 
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Tea for Free at the St Mark's Church Hall every Monday between 2-4pm.

Tea for Free is organised at the church hall at St Mark’s Church on Lincoln Road every Monday between 2 and 4 pm. 

It’s run for the community, by the community and promises to offer you a friendly afternoon. 

This has been running courtesy of Community First since 2017 but had to take a break during the pandemic. 

Since September, the club is back and running and has started to see the attendee numbers rise. 

I popped along this week and I could instantly see why people “look forward to coming down each week.” 

I was greeted with laughter and happy sounds and a lot of chatting which I am sure we have all yearned for all these months. 

“It’s an excuse for me to get ready and get out of the house", said one of them while another added: “I look forward to the company it’s get lonely living on your own.” 

Roger Kaye, Joan Hepper and Maria Elliott are the lovely volunteers making sure the kettle is perpetually on and the biscuits are stocked up for everybody. 

Roger said: “It’s mainly retired people who come but we also get some unemployed people and young mums with children also occasionally pop in. We have seen friendships form over the years. 

“The attendance varies each week and can be influenced by the weather. 

“Although it’s run at the church, it’s for anyone in the community – having said that people come from all over the city - from Eye, Gunthorpe and other parts. 

“We used to have activities such as darts and jigsaw puzzles but to make it a more Covid-safe space, we have had to take them out. 

“We sometimes show films here – the church has a license to do that. We have a Christmas film in two weeks' time and I think it’s going to be popular. 

“We do allow dogs and children and request dogs are on the lease and control of the owners. 

“It’s an important space for people who are in need of some company.” 

Joan added: "People come and chat to one another which they normally don’t get to do living alone. They have a cup of tea or coffee. One lady brings her knitting. But it’s just a friendly afternoon.  

“Particularly since we have been shut down for so long, we have forgotten how to enjoy ourselves so it’s great having this back.” 


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Last week, I revisited a lunch club I had been to pre-pandemic, at the South Grove Community Centre - operating for anybody but particularly the Homeless, Elderly and Lonely people (HELP).

The HELP club runs every Monday from 11.30am, where Anita Rowcliffe and her army of volunteers cook up a feast and offer a sit-down lunch for anybody who walks through the door, along with a friendly atmosphere that helps beat isolation.  

Last week, there were more than 50 people at the lunch club enjoying chicken and leek pies served with cheese topped dauphinois potatoes and minted peas and an apple sponge with custard and mince pies. Of course there's also tea, coffee and biscuits.

Anita has been running this for over two years now and during the lockdown, due to restrictions in place it had to be suspended, despite offering a key service to the community, in order to keep the infection rates at bay. 

She resumed service earlier this year in February but offered a takeaway meal and the sit-down service resumed in the summer this year. 

“This is a lifeline”, one person told me as I walked around speaking to people enjoying their scrumptious meal.

“We are not judged here”, said another person. 

“You could be homeless, living on the street but when you come here you are made to feel welcomed. No one judges you and it’s a safe space for us where we can sit down as equals and enjoy a great hot meal.” 

There are donations of food, clothes, shoes and other essentials for people to take what they want with them. 

Employability – a funded project that provides one to one support including CV writing and job searches - also visit the lunch club to offer a helping hand to anybody looking for work. 

The club appreciates donations of food and essential items which can be dropped off at the South Grove Community Centre in Woodston. 

Anita has previously been called the "beating heart of the South Grove Community Centre", but she says " it's a team effort and can't take the glory alone - she is grateful to all the volunteers."

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The inter-community breakfast club returned to Peterborough's Refugee and Asylum Community Association (PARCA) post-lockdown in July, after months of suspension during the pandemic. 

Prior to the lockdown, the centre based just off Lincoln Road in Peterborough hosted coffee mornings for women from the city's communities.

At the breakfast club, people are also offered activities to keep attendees occupied including a sewing session, gardening, table tennis and a yoga class.  

During my visit in July, I spoke to some of the people in attendance who shared what the centre and the space it offers meant to them. 

A former abuse survivor who relocated to the city in lockdown said this centre has been a ‘relief’ for her, adding: “When I saw the poster for the breakfast club, I thought to myself I am definitely going, this is good for me. It’s just nice to finally see people, speak to someone, see smiling faces.   

“We feel safe here, coming here and trying to make friends has been good.    

“I am so excited to be here- I see they have sewing machines so I want to learn that. It’s a great place with friendly people.” 

The breakfast club is held every Friday morning, free of charge and is open to anyone who would like to come along, with a maximum of 30 people. More information can be found here.

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Masjid Khadijah on Cromwell Road has also announced it has resumed the ‘much-awaited’ women’s coffee mornings at the mosque – each Friday from 11am, which started on November 19. It offers a chance to women in the local community to interact with each other, relax and build their social networks over coffee and snacks. 


Ness M Care Foundation (NMF) is running a coffee morning next week.  

This is a community-run charity dedicated to supporting activities to improve the quality of life for people who are socially isolated, including those cared for at home and their careers. 

The charity’s founder Jackie Moyo, who originates from Zimbabwe, set up the charity when she witnessed social isolation and loneliness as a nurse going into people’s homes. 

The coffee mornings are named after the African philosophy of Ubuntu, which places emphasis on community and making sure that no-one in society is left behind. The charity is holding an Ubuntu Christmas Coffee Morning on Monday, November 29.   

The free event is being held at Paston and Gunthorpe Community Centre, Hallfields Lane, Peterborough, between 10am and noon. 


Compas charity, which works for the welfare of the Eastern European communities in Peterborough is hosting a coffee morning as well on Wednesday (November 23) between 10am to 1pm at Fitzwilliam Street - offering a chance for the communities to integrate. Feel free to pop along. 

The pandemic has ‘deepened the social isolation many experience’ and clubs like these are giving them hope while trying to combat loneliness. 


Are you running any coffee mornings? Let us know at info@peterboroughmatters.co.uk