Wellbeing cafe launches in Duston to combat loneliness and get people talking again

Duston Parish Councillor Sandie Maitland with regional link for Renew Wellbeing Chris Davidson and reverend Mandy Marriott.
Duston Parish Councillor Sandie Maitland with regional link for Renew Wellbeing Chris Davidson and reverend Mandy Marriott.

You don't need to be a member of this church, or the area, to make new-found friendships. Or, if it's just a slice of cake you want and a cup of tea, the doors are open to you too.

St Francis' Church, in Duston, launched its wellbeing cafe yesterday, which will take place every Wednesday from 1pm-4pm, to help those who are isolated in the community reconnect and make new friends.

The scheme has taken inspiration from St Giles Church but has no focus on religion - although there is time for reflection in the chapel for those who want to opt in.

Team rector for Duston and Upton parish Reverend Mandy Marriott said: "I'm very aware, particularly in this part of Duston there's a lot of deprivation and there's a lot of loneliness and anxiety.

"Being the church in the community, we want to reach out and say you're welcome to just take some time [to yourselves].

"I'm hoping the cafe will be used in lots of different ways as a support network. Because we can only do limited things we will then be able to refer people to other organisations."

At the session on Wednesday, tables were set up so those who wanted to could sit and chat while playing draughts, enjoy crafts and painting. Coffee, tea and cakes are provided but people can bring their own sweet treats for others to share too.

The group has been set up after a grant was gifted to them by Duston Parish Council. Sandie Maitland, a member of the parish council, said: "There are so many people who are isolated or lonely.

"Here, it's mainly elderly people but there's younger people too who have lost their way.

"We have lost that talking to each other across the fence, knowing what people are doing, and being nice."

Mandy added: "Absolutely anyone is welcome. We believe in acceptance, belonging and contribution.

"There's not a 'them and us' attitude. You will not be able to tell who belongs to the church and who doesn't."