1,200 join online Friendship event

“Lockdown wasn’t a problem to begin with as I enjoyed being in the garden and having a rest. After a few weeks of being at home on my own I started to feel lonely and missed seeing my friends.”

Jim’s experience of loneliness during lockdown is common for older people who live alone and rely on outings for social interaction. He is one of 40 people who regularly attended the monthly Friendship Lunches hosted by Bernadette House at The Bull pub in Bracebridge Heath. The events were launched in 2019 as a way of bringing the community together and proved to be a great success.

“The lunches are always really popular, with a good mixture of old and new faces and give people something to look forward to,” explains Kathy Markwick, the co-organiser of the events.

With lockdown, the events had to be postponed and this has been difficult for many of our guests, particularly those who do not have family to keep their spirits up.”

As it’s still too early to think about arranging new gatherings, Bernadette House moved their events online and launched a virtual Friendship Lunch, on Facebook Live, to give their guests the chance to reunite and enjoy an afternoon of music.

“We hosted our first virtual Friendship Lunch in July and the second event in August. Mother and son duo Stevie Moore and Patricia Lynn stared in the first event and vocalist Keeley May was a sensation last Sunday. Over 1,200 joined the event live and we’ve had hundreds more views since,” says Elizabeth Stephens, the Proprietor of Bernadette House. 

“It was a perfect afternoon for people like Jim who are undoubtedly suffering with loneliness and social isolation.”

The lunches have received tremendous support throughout the community. The Mayor attended a lunch last autumn and the local GP practice has been a big supporter, inviting staff from Bernadette House to last winter’s flu clinic to let patients now about the lunch.

“We’ve received enthusiastic support now we’ve taken the events online and many community workers are promoting them to the vulnerable people they support,” says Kathy.

Clare Richardson, Civic Officer, with North Kesteven District Council, described the online events as “a ‘lifeline’ some of our elderly residents may benefit from.”

“I used to enjoy the outing and the music so I’m still looking forward to the real thing but until that happens it gives me a boost to join in online and know there’s lots of friendly people out there,” says Jim.

Social isolation has a devastating effect on people’s health and wellbeing. The Friendship Lunches offer an escape from being home alone and an opportunity to come together and meet others and make new friends.

“We’d like to thank our wonderful performers and everyone involved in helping to make loneliness more bearable for the most vulnerable in our city.”

View the events for free:

Keeley May Vocals

Stevie and Patricia

Read the article about the lunches as featured in the Sheffield Star:

Virtual Friendship Lunches are a ‘lifeline’ to Sheffield’s lonely and vulnerable