The Chorley cafés offering companionship for those left lonely by Covid

Chorley residents who have been left isolated by the pandemic are being invited back into “the real world” to meet others who find themselves in the same position.

Monday, 19th July 2021, 4:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th July 2021, 1:40 am

Befriending service Friends for You has reserved a table in a different café in the borough every weekday morning, where customers will be able to find company as well as a coffee.

Prior to the pandemic, the charity focused its efforts on visiting people in their homes. However, Covid meant that the scheme had to shift to a phone-based system - and also saw the numbers seeking support more than treble to 180.

Now that restrictions have been lifted, the founder of the service, Marjorie Hayward, is hoping to tempt residents to venture out for face-to-face contact - in many cases, for the first time in more than a year.

From left: Susan Forshaw, Marjorie Hayward (Friends for You), Gianni Tsalakos (Majestic Coffee Lounge) Cath Hoyle and Chorley mayor Steve Holgate at the launch of "Talking Tables" (image: Neil Cross)

“So many people have been shielded and are scared of coming out of their own homes, so I came up with this idea of ‘Talking Tables’,” Marjorie explains.

“It’s a specific table in a café where they will be able to go and know that customers are happy to chat to each other. I don’t want people to wake up and think, ‘Oh no, not another day on my own’ - I want them to be able to decide to go and find a Talking Table.

“The pandemic has changed people’s view of the world and their view of themselves within it - I hope this idea gives them a bit of security and stability in this changed world.

“I want to instil a little bit of real life back into [what have become] very closeted lives - and a bit of enthusiasm.”

Nicola Rainford, Marjorie Hayward and Susan Forshaw pictured as "Talking Tables" launches in Chorley

However, Marjorie recognises that many of the people the charity helps will be wary of taking a step back into the community at a time when Covid still presents a real risk - especially if they were already confined to their homes even before the pandemic. As somebody who has known the debilitating effects of Covid herself, she was keen to ensure that the six venues taking part in her new project provided a safe environment.

“All of these cafés are very well-versed in cross-infection prevention. Even though the Covid rules have changed from this week, I still want everybody to be cautious, because the people we help are very precious beings who have looked after themselves and obeyed all the instructions - so I don’t want anybody catching the virus now of all times.”

Friends for You volunteers will initially be present at the Talking Tables events to get the conversation flowing and ensure participants feel comfortable - but Marjorie hopes that it will soon become a “self-sustaining” scheme. Chorley Council link workers will also be on hand for the first two weeks of the initiative.

“Many people are really sad, alone and depressed at the moment - we have got to help them emerge from this terrible 16 months we have all been through,” Marjorie adds.

WHERE CAN I FIND A TALKING TABLE?

The service is on offer between 10.30 and 11.30am at participating cafes on the following days:

Mondays - Majestic Café, 92, Market St, PR7 2SF.

Tuesdays - Café Ambio, Astley Park, Astley Rd, PR7 1XA.

Wednesdays - The Meeting Place, Chorley URC, Hollinshead Street, PR7 1EP.

Thursdays - Café Latte, 61, Union St, PR7 1AB.

Fridays - Café Connect, Living Waters Church, 33-45, Bolton St, PR7 3AB.

Tuesdays to Fridays - Taste Café, St Laurence Church, Union St, PR7 1EB.

BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT RETURNS

An in-person support service for the bereaved in Chorley has resumed for the first time since the onset of the pandemic.

The “After Loss Club”, also operated by Friends For You, will be holding two sessions every Monday at the Sea View Inn on Preston Road in Whittle-le-Woods between 2.30 and 4pm and 7.30 and 9pm.

Anybody attending should ask for Marjorie or Pauline in their arrival.