Yearly Archives: 2018

Volunteers’ Week 2018

Volunteers’ Week is a chance to say thank you for the fantastic contribution of all of our volunteers.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank all of our amazing volunteers at Brightlife. Volunteering is a fulfilling way to give back to the community, and helping others makes you feel great in return. Volunteering with Brightlife can also help you gain valuable new skills and experiences, and boost your confidence.

The Older People’s Alliance is an integral part of Brightlife. The Alliance consists of eight committed and enthusiastic members, who donate their time to provide strategic input to different aspects of the project. One of the main roles has been in the commissioning of Brightlife funded projects and over the past year the OPA has commissioned 30 Bright Idea initiatives, all now up and running in their local communities.


Viv Gee, Chair of the Older People’s Alliance for Brightlife jokes that she has never been busier since retiring! Viv was previously involved in a North West forum on ageing and got involved with Brightlife because she liked the fact that it is led and designed by older people for older people. “Through Brightlife I’ve met lots of new people which has really helped me in older age. It does take confidence to get out of the house, walk into somewhere new and strike up a conversation. Even though I am used to it, I still get nervous but if you can make that first step, meeting new people can make all of the difference. I want people to know they don’t have to be alone.”


Margaret Yorke, Vice Chair of the Older People’s Alliance also believes that volunteering with Brightlife has been a very positive experience, “Being involved in Brightlife gives me something to look forward to…it helps occupy my days and keeps my mind busy. I’m making friends all the time and am enjoying feeling part of something where my ideas are not just welcomed but really valued.”

There are a range of rewarding and flexible ways you can volunteer with us. As part of our team, you will be able to use your skills, enthusiasm and life experience to help develop, run and test services that make a real difference to the lives of older people.

Find out about our current volunteering opportunities by calling Engagement and Volunteer Manager; Lynne Humphries on 01606 884449.



Tackling Loneliness

Loneliness and social isolation can be as bad for patients as chronic health conditions.

Loneliness puts people at a 50% increased risk of an early death compared to those with good social connections, and it is as bad for health outcomes as obesity. According to the Royal College of General Practitioners’ (RCGP) a national public campaign is needed to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation across society, and encourage everyone to get involved in combatting this ‘public health epidemic.’

The call is one of several in Tackling Loneliness: A Community Action Plan, which argues that a widespread campaign is essential to educating the public, and should also encourage people to talk to their neighbours and get involved in, or start local initiatives in a bid to build and strengthen social connections throughout communities.

The action plan has come out of the College’s first-ever roundtable on loneliness; an event which saw charities, and community, voluntary and faith organisations come together to discuss how communities, including GPs, can tackle loneliness and social isolation in society.

For further reading:

National campaign needed to tackle loneliness epidemic – May 2018

Tackling Loneliness – A Community Action Plan – May 2018

Ray (89)

Ray Thompson turns 90 on 4th August but you wouldn’t know it when you see him jumping around helping other members of the Winsford Community Compass group. Spritely Ray talks fondly of how much he enjoys coming to the Monday morning group held at The Dingle, where he enjoys chatting to his friends George and Derek. Together they are affectionately called the ‘Three Musketeers’ by the rest of the group because they always sit together and share stories.

Ray has found the friendship and support he has gained from the group to be invaluable. Three years ago, he lost his wife of 66 years, Margaret, to lung cancer. It happened quickly and he found it very difficult to accept. His Doctor recommended going along to some social groups and he hasn’t looked back.

In his own words, Ray is crazy about ships and as well as working his entire career on boats with ICI, and the Merchant Navy before that, him and Margaret enjoyed cruise holidays for 17 years of their married life. It is these experiences that inspired him to begin write poetry which he now enjoys sharing with his new friends. On one trip on the TSS Canberra shortly after it had been changed into a cruise ship after serving in the Falklands war, Ray wrote a poem that would lead to him and his wife to join the prestigious Captain’s table! Ray recites completely from memory:

“To be at sea in a good ship, with the sun, sea and the sky, when all they had in the old days where the stars to steer them by.

But this old lady, the Canberra, will take you to far off lands and as all English know, she served in the far Falklands. There is an atmosphere on board this ship, she is a cut above the rest, from Captain to Cabin Boy, and they always give their best.

The Captain and his crew, so courteous and kind with always the safety of the passengers in mind. The Chief Engineer on board really knows it all, for without him and his Engine room staff, she will go nowhere at all.

The Chefs and all the dining staff always make it seem, you cannot beat their service or the ships cuisine. The theatre companies on board who really give a treat, as they perform Les Miserables to Forty Second Street.

The next day may be different in every kind of way, to arrive at some exotic port would really make your day. To go ashore or do a tour or have a little roam, when you return to Canberra, you will find it’s home from home.

They all dress up for dinner, it’s very nice to see, and it’s what they call Ships Protocol and just has to be. Yes, the ladies and gentlemen all dressed up to the nines and then a little drink and they all go down to dine.

And so it goes the life on this old lady of the sea, a life that would suit anyone, especially you or me. So if you want a cruising holiday you will never forget, get on board Canberra, it’s the best you will ever get.”

Ray wrote the poem whilst on board and shared it with a fellow passenger who then took it up to the Captain without Ray knowing! Clearly the Captain and crew all loved it and Ray now has such a special memory of being on the top table during one of his trips.

This wasn’t to be the only time Ray received an accolade for one of his poems. Despite the fact Ray has only ever written for pleasure and shared his poems with his friends, his writing has ended up in the hands of some rather famous people which has led to some surprising praise through Ray’s letterbox over the years. Ray shares that he once received an unexpected letter from the Whitehouse after he wrote a poem about 9/11 for a friend in America. That friend was so moved he sent it to the President, George Bush, who wrote back to Ray thanking him for thinking of him!

Modestly, Ray shares that the other members of the group aren’t aware of this accolade as they spend their time chatting about other things, keeping each other company and helping one another out. He shares that the Community Compass group has really made a massive difference in his life and he looks forward to his weekly get togethers’ with his fellow musketeers!

The Community Compass group is run by Yvonne Boyle and Simone Cobbold. Community Compass social activities in Malpas and Winsford are Brightlife funded projects. For more information, please contact Simone or Yvonne on 01606 827131, email: or visit

Help Needed

University of Chester would like to invite you to take part in a research study

Have you experienced feelings of anxiety or depression or been affected by life changes we will all go through such as retirement or bereavement?

Have you received support from a professional such as a Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychological Therapist or Bereavement Services? (either privately or NHS)?

Are you willing to answer some questions about your health and wellbeing?

Are you willing to answer some questions about your alcohol usage?

University of Chester are conducting a research project which looks at the experiences of those (aged 65 and over) who have accessed support from a professional such as a Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychological Therapist or Bereavement Services. In particular they are looking at the experiences, thoughts and feelings about health and well-being and alcohol usage in adults who have utilised these services.

If you would like to be a participant please click here for full details of the research study.

For Further Information, please contact: Helen Leyland PhD Student University of Chester Tel: 07884 332553 Email:

All information gathered will be kept strictly confidential and will be used solely for educational purposes.

The Great Get Together 2018

Weekend festival at Storyhouse. Performances, workshops, talks, films, crafts and debates to bring communities together and celebrate all that unites us.

The Great Get Together Part of Storyhouse’s Celebrating Age Programme. A celebration with older people at its heart. The Great Get Together is inspired by Jo Cox’s belief that: “We have far more in common than that which divides us” and aims to raise awareness about how communities can work together to help end loneliness.

Join us for a packed weekend of activities, talks, workshops, shows and special cinema screenings. Activities are free and held on a ‘drop-by-and-have-a-go’, first-come-first-served basis unless otherwise stated. To find out more information and to book events visit the Storyhouse website or take a look at the brochure here.


TAKE PART Share a Memory Booth
Everyone has an amazing story to tell… and Brightlife would love to hear yours! So why not drop in to our Share a Memory booth and tell us a short story. If you can spare 10 minutes, you could tell us about your happiest or most memorable moments, something about your childhood or where you have lived, or any adventures you’d like to share; it’s a great way to keep history alive. Drop in for a one-to-one session where we’ll make a recording of your story for an audio gallery to be featured on the Brightlife website later this year at Cinema Foyer FREE | Drop-in | 10am-4pm

PERFORMANCE Silver Singers
Silver Singers is a fun, sociable Chester based choir for anybody aged 50+ who loves to sing. This wonderful choir will be performing a range of well-known pieces of popular music and will be around after the performance to talk to anyone who might be interested in joining them.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in | 10am (40 mins)

WORKSHOP Digital Buddies
Digital Buddies is a user led opportunity to get online and work with college and university students to get help with what you need to know to get online. Whether it’s learning how to Skype your family in Australia, finding your way round a price comparison site to find the best deals, or even making the most of your e-mail, this workshop could be for you.
Meeting Room FREE | Workshop 10am-11am Drop-in 11am-12pm

Drumming @Live! is an opportunity to share your creativity, celebrate life and have lots of fun in a relaxed atmosphere. Learn how to play a variety of rhythms using a wide range of Djembe and Samba drums and percussion instruments and take part in group performances in the local community. Music, rhythm and fun as we raise the roof at Storyhouse when our performers energize, inspire and motivate workshop participants to reach their full drumming potential.
Garret Theatre FREE | 2pm (50 mins) Booking recommended

TAKE PART Reminiscence Pass the Parcel
Join Brightlife’s Social Prescribing Team for some fun and games whilst opening up a few stories and memories from your past. This activity works just like the popular party game but with a difference… in between each layer of the parcel lies a question, picture or statement that will act as a prompt for people to share stories from their past and start a conversation. A lovely way to get to meet new people in a friendly, welcoming environment.
Garret Theatre FREE | 12pm & 12.30pm (30mins) Booking recommended

TAKE PART Tai Chi for Health in Cheshire
Demonstration and Taster Class.
Demonstration by Lynette Bowler and her Tai Chi Players, showcasing Tai Chi Kung Fu Fan (a real crowd-pleaser!) and Yang Style Tai Chi. Feeling inspired? Join Lynette afterwards for some simple warm up exercises, Health Qigong and a chance to try some basic Yang Style Tai Chi. Or just come along to watch – spectators very welcome.
Garret Theatre FREE | Drop-in 1pm (50 mins)

CINEMA Finding Your Feet Friday 22 June 3pm Saturday 23 June 1pm
On the eve of retirement, the well-to-do Sandra (Imelda Staunton) discovers her husband has been having an affair with her best friend and is forced into exile with her bohemian sister Bif (Celia Imrie).
Released: 2017 | Duration: 111 mins Directed by: Richard Loncraine Starring: Imelda Staunton, Joanna Lumley, Timothy Spall, David Hayman. £6 | Booking essential


TAKE PART Share a Memory Booth
Drop in and tell us your amazing story! (see p1 for full details)
Cinema Foyer FREE | Drop In | 10am-4pm

WORKSHOP WEA Fabulous 50+ Arts (Jewellery)
Have you ever wanted to design your own jewellery. Come along and try your hand at making polymer beads to create your very own exclusive piece of jewellery to take home. All materials are provided.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in 10am-1 pm & 2pm-5 pm Tutor: Cecilia Fletcher

WORKSHOP WEA Fabulous 50+ Arts (Painting for Pleasure)
This ‘have a go’ workshop offers you the opportunity to create a very personal piece of art. It doesn’t matter if you are a complete beginner just come and have some fun. All materials are provided.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in 10am-1 pm & 2pm-5 pm Tutor: Gordon Brown

TAKE PART Dial House T-Club Breakfast Club
The T-Club is a monthly social group for people aged over 50 who meet at Dial House in Chester city centre. The ‘T’ stands for tea, tunes, technology, trips and most importantly, togetherness. Join us for free tea and teacakes in The Kitchen and we’ll tell you more about how you could get involved with our friendly group.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in | 8.30am-10am

TAKE PART Birds in the City
Enjoy a 90-minute walk around the city and Grosvenor Park, whilst local ecologist Dr Anne Brenchley helps you identify different species of birds along the way.
Lobby Please meet 10 minutes before start time. FREE | 9am-10.30am Booking recommended

ACTIVITY Hand Massage with Beehive Healthcare
Why not enjoy a lovely relaxing start to the day and treat yourself to a FREE hand-massage courtesy of Beehive Healthcare. The friendly team will be happy to talk to you about the benefits of other treatments they offer from Indian Head massage, reflexology to Thai foot, leg and arm massage.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in 9.30am-11.30am

ACTIVITY Lego: Building the City
Part of Chester Heritage Festival. An intergenerational activity for all to enjoy.
The Kitchen FREE | 10am-1pm Booking recommended

Interfaith Tales The West Cheshire Interfaith Forum presents a series of short stories (10-15 minutes) from different faith groups followed by question and discussion time.
Garret Bar FREE | 10am (45 Mins) Booking recommended

TAKE PART Potting with Paper Pots
Young and Green at Heart is a horticultural project based at the Countess of Chester Country Park. You are invited to come along and have a go at making paper pots from old newspapers and then using them to start growing seedlings in. Whether you’d like to cultivate vegetables, flowers, wildflowers or even sunflowers, you will gain helpful tips to get you started and a planted paper pot of your own to take away. The Den FREE | Drop-in | 10am-12pm

TAKE PART Talking Heads Pop-up
Share your thoughts on loneliness to camera at Brightlife’s Talking-Heads Pop-up… No one should be afraid to admit they are lonely. Brightlife believes that loneliness is everyone’s responsibility and only by sharing ideas of how to tackle this social epidemic, can the problem be solved. Please drop by and share your thoughts, opinions or ideas about how communities can best work together to make Cheshire a more Age Friendly place to live.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in | 10am-3pm

WORKSHOP Chatter Chairs Seated Exercise with Diva Fitness
Gentle sitting exercises help improve your mobility and can prevent falls. Don’t worry if you’ve not done much for a while, these exercises are easy to follow and you’ll be able to do them at home afterwards.
FREE | 10am (50 mins)

WORKSHOP British Sign Language (BSL)
Taster Workshop In Britain, the most common form of Sign Language is called British Sign Language (BSL) and is the preferred language of around 145,000 people within the UK. An introduction to BSL including: •How to communicate with D/deaf people (do’s and don’t’s) •Basic everyday signs •Basic numbers/finger spelling
FREE | 11am (45 mins)

WORKSHOP Visual Impairment Awareness Training Led by Vision Support.
FREE | 12.30pm & 1.30pm (30 mins)
Please meet in The Kitchen 10 minutes before start time. Booking recommended

TAKE PART Vintage Pride Photo Booth
Come along and be magically transported into a Vintage Pride March! Dress up in some stylish vintage clothes, choose your props and have your photo taken in front of a green screen.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in | 11am-3pm

ACTIVITY Improv Gym for Over 50s Taster Session
A series of drama improvisation games ideal for those who want to discover their playful side. There’s no audience and the atmosphere is non-judgemental and fun, so that we can see where our creativity takes us. Expect to work together as a team to create group laughs, stories and sketches, seemingly from nowhere!
Meeting Room FREE | 12.30pm (30 mins) Booking recommended

WORKSHOP Crochet and Knitting
Join us for knitting, crochet and a chat. This group also meet at Storyhouse on the 4th Saturday of every month.
Meeting Room FREE | Drop-in 1.30pm-3.30pm

WORKSHOP Women’s Makers Mindful Crafts
Ola from Heal Earth will be sharing some techniques and skills with a mindful approach allowing people to slow down, relax and develop their own creativity through a calm, welcoming and non-judgmental activity.
Book Pod FREE | Drop-in | 2pm-4pm

PERFORMANCE Paradise Lodge
Paradise Lodge is based on actor Steve Cooper’s experience of caring for his mother-in-law Dorothy in the final years of her life. Steve, who’s best known for his roles in BAFTA winning BBC3 drama In The Flesh and appearances in Peter Kay’s Car Share and Coronation Street, wrote the play to try to make sense of the condition and how it impacted on Dorothy, her family and friends. It also stars local actress Sophie Osborne who has also experienced caring for someone with dementia.
The performance focusses on dysfunctional ukulele musical duo, Eric and Kylie, embarking on their first gig together at the Paradise Lodge care home. Taking on nine roles between them, their hilarious and heart-wrenching tale, takes the audience on an exploration of the nature of identity, reality and loss. One minute you’re laughing, the next you’re crying.
Garret Theatre £5 | 2pm (running time: 90 mins) Booking essential

WORKSHOP Song in Seconds with Claire Mooney
You will be crafting the lyrics to a newly devised song and within an hour you’ll be singing it! Back by popular demand courtesy of the Brightlife Silver Rainbows social groupThe Den FREE | Drop-in 2pm-3.30pm

WORKSHOP Sporting Memories Taster by Active Cheshire
By sharing memories of sporting moments and tapping into a passion for sport this group helps people to connect with others and with their past. Reawakening positive thoughts and feelings that otherwise remain hidden away.
Garret Bar FREE | 12.30pm (60 mins) Booking recommended

WORKSHOP Men in Sheds: Bird Box Making
Meet some of the local ‘Shedders’ who’ll help you make a bird box. Plus a showcase of the other amazing creations they’ve made in their sheds.
The Den FREE | Drop-in | 2pm-4pm

WORKSHOP Poetry Writing with Award-Winning Cheshire Poet Laureate John Lindley
This workshop will allow participants to explore a range of new skills whilst John supports you to create your own poems. Poetry novices welcome. John Lindley is an acclaimed poet and experienced performer whose poetry has appeared widely in magazines as well as being broadcast on radio.
Please meet in The Kitchen 10 minutes before start time. £5 | 2pm (90 mins) Booking essential

TAKE PART What’s Cooking at Storyhouse?
Everyone can tell a tale about their favourite food, recipe, meal or snack. Sharing food is a wonderful way of bringing communities together and getting people talking about something we all have in common. With this in mind, Storyhouse’s chefs have teamed up with Brightlife’s What’s Cooking project to bring you a tasty activity that will lead to friendly chat, foody discussions and recipe sharing.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in | 3pm-5pm

TAKE PART Gameshow Get Together
Join the Brighter Days Social Group for some popular games everyone can enjoy. The theme of the afternoon will be familiar TV Shows such as Play Your Cards Right, Generation Game and Catchphrase. Everyone is welcome.
Garret Bar FREE | 4pm (60 mins) Booking recommended

WORKSHOP Dementia Friends workshop in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society
Led by a Dementia Friends Champion to help participants learn more about dementia and the small ways you can help. From telling friends about Dementia Friends to visiting someone you know living with dementia. Becoming a Dementia Friend is about turning understanding into action. Join the UK’s biggest ever initiative to change the way people think, act and talk about dementia – help change your community – come along and find out more!
Please meet in the Garret Bar 10 minutes before start time. FREE | 4pm (45 mins) Booking recommended

CINEMA Edie Sunday 24 June 1pm Tuesday 26 June 3pm
£6 | Booking essential
After gaining a sense of newfound freedom after the passing of her domineering husband, 84 –year-old Edie (Sheila Hancock) decides to follow a life-long dream.
Released: 2017 | Duration: 102 mins Directed by: Simon Hunter Starring: Shelia Hancock, Kevin Guthrie, Paul Brannigan.


FAMILIES Stories of Chester
Led by the Storyhouse engagement team: listen to some historical stories of Chester. Part of Chester Heritage Festival.
The Den FREE | Drop-in 10.30am & 3pm (30 mins)

WORKSHOP Drama: Brought to you by Little Actors Theatre Company
Warming up and improvisation leading to encouraging self-expression and increasing confidence. An interactive drama workshop led by Mike Lockley of Little Actors Theatre to give a taster of what the Over 50s Brightlights Theatre Company does.
Garret Theatre FREE | 10am (60 mins) Booking recommended

TAKE PART Lego Building the City
FAMILIES Arts and Crafts
Craft activity part of Chester Heritage Festival.
The Den FREE | Drop-in | 11am-3pm

Lend your craftsmanship to the making of a set of bug hotels which will be used in a new Super Trees roundabout in Chester.
The Den FREE | 11am & 12.30 pm (60 mins) Booking recommended

TAKE PART Virtual Reality Experience for All
Having a laugh with old or new friends is a perfect way to get together, and that’s exactly what you will get with this. Drop-in and meet VR enthusiast Adrian, who claims you are never too old or young to immerse yourself in new experiences. Adrian has a full list of VR experiences to choose from, from driving an F1 car to swimming with sharks.
The Kitchen FREE | Drop-in 11am-1pm & 2pm-4pm

PERFORMANCE Cheshire Dance
Contemporary dance performance by an older peoples’ dance group.
Garret Theatre FREE | 1pm (30 mins) Booking Recommended

How to find Storyhouse

Hunter Street in Chester city centre CH1 2AR (near the Cathedral on the site of the old Odeon Cinema).
Nearest Car Parks
Market Place Car Park, CH1 2HH
Delamere Street Car Park, CH2 2AY

The whole building is accessible via lift, with wheelchair access to all areas.
Visit for more information.
Accessible parking and drop-off points
The nearest accessible car park is Market which has 8 disabled spaces – 200 metres from nearest exit
There is free on street parking /car park for blue badge holders on Hamilton Place and Goss Street (4 hours max) – c.300 metres away
The best place for drop-offs is Northgate Street – 20 metres away


New Podcast Series

A podcast series championing great work being done in Cheshire West and Chester to tackle loneliness and social isolation has been launched. It’s the first UK podcast series of its kind. ‘Discover Brightlife’ captures the heartfelt stories of those who have suddenly found themselves facing life alone over 50.

The series unveils the lessons the team at Brightlife Cheshire have learnt when it comes to easing social isolation – and highlights the areas where more work is needed. Age UK estimates there are 1.2 million people who are chronically lonely in England – that’s one in 20 adults. The cost of loneliness and its impact on health is something Dr Jonathan Griffiths, Winsford GP and Chair of NHS Vale Royal CCG is keen to learn more about using Brightlife’s referral scheme. “Being lonely is associated with an increased risk in developing coronary disease, heart disease and stroke. It’s comparable risk factor for early death is smoking 15 cigarettes per day.”

Doctors nationally are being encouraged to recommend the importance of staying active to patients showing signs of isolation: “It’s not about somebody doing to you or fixing you, or solving your problem for you – the project is about connecting you with other people who are also lonely, and together you can solve your own worries by being better connected.”

The podcast series uncovers inspirational stories – such as that of spritely 90 year-old Audrey Thomas from Malpas who, after finding herself isolated form a series of health complications, discovered a talent for poetry and fine art: “I always believed I couldn’t even draw a line straight, then at 89 there I am sketching!” She cites recently appearing on Page 3 of the Chester Chronicle, having her story told in America and appearing on BBC Radio as proof that it’s never too late to learn a new skill in life.

From local churches, pubs, day care centres to village halls – all corners of the Cheshire community have been engaging and expressing their support to help the project be a success in challenging social isolation for the over 50s.

At the core of the project is the passion of social prescribers who work tirelessly in Malpas, Winsford and areas of Chester to find the people who need a helping hand, listen to what they have to say and tailor the right answer for them – for their interests and locality. Brightlife’s work in the rest of Cheshire West and Chester is to encourage people to be aware of social isolation and loneliness.

Chris McMahon leads the team based in Northwich: “Some people are really pleased just to have a visitor, to have someone to offer a cup of tea too. You see a real difference within an hour that you’ve spent with somebody. As the project continues, hopefully we can get more evidence that this approach does work and that it can help to build stronger communities as well.”

A new wave of silver surfers

A Sanctuary Care home in Chester has been bridging the digital gap as residents get tech-savvy with ipads and Skype.

Residents at Upton Dene Residential and Nursing Home in Caldecott Close, have been learning new skills to help them engage in the growing online world with the help of Digital Buddies.

Digital Buddies is a Brightlife funded project run by Heather Backstrom and Alan Smith and aims to support the older generation with digital technology, such as Skype, FaceTime, Facebook and email.

Armed with laptops and iPads, the home’s residents have been introduced to a number of popular social networking platforms, making it easier to stay up to date with current affairs and contact friends and family, who may live abroad.

Alan, who leads the sessions at Upton Dene said: “The residents are really enjoying using the iPads, watching videos of London present and past and line dancing – they are also using them to access talking books such as Little Women.

“We’ve also been using Google Earth, with the residents sharing memories of where they used to live.”

Home manager Dawn Smith said: “It’s been so wonderful to see our residents become more confident using their tablets and making the most of what the digital world has to offer!

“Some of our residents have family all over the world so being able to keep in contact with just the touch of a button is just invaluable.”

Heather and Alan launched the scheme in January after winning funding for two years from Brightlife – part of the National Lottery funded Ageing Better programme set up by the Big Lottery Fund to help combat social isolation and loneliness in Cheshire West and Chester.

Reverend Tina Upton

“The way we live in society these days has huge implications for the problem of social isolation. I think loneliness is a different issue again – loneliness is a feeling. You can be lonely in a crowd, it is a subjective experience. Equally someone sitting in their lounge alone might not feel lonely.”

Reverend Tina Upton, Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Blacon put in a bid to Brightlife for funding for outreach provision that would help people with poor mobility to get out of the house to go to their community café. The project is called ‘Blacon on the Move’.

 “We have great facilities in Blacon through our outreach project which has a café and gardening club which are popular with older members of the community. We recognised that some people weren’t able to come and enjoy these facilities as they were immobile and unable to leave the house without assistance. We had only ever dreamed of being able to afford a minibus which now enables us to help those individuals with poor mobility to come and meet other people and make new friends.”

Tina believes that social isolation is a huge problem in today’s society, she thinks it is a shame that people don’t know their neighbours and that families move to other ends of the country and even world without thinking of the consequences of the older relatives they leave behind.

Tina explained:  I hope that the new Minister for Loneliness will highlight the issue across every Government department so that they can each prioritise what they are able to do to tackle it. It is so pervasive and affects so many parts of life, from social care to people’s health. If you sort out loneliness you could crack a lot of it. I don’t think one minister can do that alone – they need the weight of the Government behind them.”

Tina is passionate about International Women’s Day being a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women all over the world. Commenting on what International Women’s Day means to Tina, she said: “It is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate women around the world. If I think about the amazing women I know, it is about the inspiration they give me – from looking at their achievements and feeling that maybe that could be me. If I could go back and advise my younger self, I would say have confidence, have a go – because you never know what might happen and what have you got to lose?”

Interview by Kate Cousens in celebration of International Women’s Day 2018

Ladies Birdwatching group

The West Cheshire Ladies Birdwatching group is a group of 8-10 ladies who usually meet on Wednesday mornings.

On the 18th April they will be taking a short walk around Marbury village and Big Mere to see Spring birds. It’s an easy walk that is particularly suited for the over 50’s and the cost is £5. Booking is advisable.

Contact Anne on 01352 750118, 07896  830940 or for more information.

The full schedule for the next few months is available below.


Kay Slater (75)

“I started Lite Bites because I was aware that there were a lot of older people who were stuck in the house not seeing other people so I wanted to encourage people to come out, have a meal and meet other people. Getting the Brightlife funding was a Godsend and I hope one day there will be more projects like this to help people to get together and not be lonely.”

Kay runs theLite Bite Café’ twice a week at Stanney Grange and Flatt Lane Community Centres in Ellesmere Port. After she first set up the café with her own funds, she then applied for ‘Bright ideas’ funding which enabled her to purchase additional equipment such as microwaves, a freezer and all of the cutlery and crockery for the café.

Kay has been a volunteer in different community initiatives for over 27 years, starting out as a football manager to under 14 boys and then running a cyber centre for people aged 50+. She believes it is important for her well-being to be with other people and tells us that her worst nightmare would be not seeing anyone day to day, which she realises is the reality for a lot of people.

When asked what it feels like to be considered an amazing woman by Brightlife, she said: “I am not an amazing woman! I am just someone that is willing to give the time up to help others because I’d like to think if I was in their situation someone else would do the same to help me not be lonely. I get a lot of happiness from volunteering and seeing people enjoy themselves – that’s why I do it to bring happiness to other people.”

It is her vision that there would be more funding available like Bright ideas to help bring people together. She would like the new Minister for Loneliness to make sure there are more places for people to go.

“If we had more funding we could do a lot more…I’d like the Minister to open up community venues free of charge so that people could get together. There are a lot of people like me who are willing to organise things if they had the money to do it.”

Interview by Kate Cousens in celebration of International Women’s Day 2018

“The T-Club” set to launch

Following a successful application for Brightlife funding, Dial West Cheshire are preparing to launch “The T-Club”, a monthly social group for those aged over 50 which will meet at Dial House in Chester city centre.

“The T-Club”; where the T stands for tea, tunes, technology, television/film and most importantly, togetherness, will be a monthly social group led by the users enjoying activities together in a group setting. This could be afternoon tea in the Dial House café, a dvd/film, musical entertainment or even a group outing to a local attraction.

Trisha Bell, Chair of Dial West Cheshire, said; “The T-Club is an exciting new initiative that we hope will bring people who might be feeling lonely or socially isolated together once a month to do something that they enjoy, meet new people and make new friends. We know that group activities are particularly effective at helping older people out of loneliness and isolation and we’re really looking forward to seeing the group develop and grow.”

Dial West Cheshire is a thriving local charity that has been providing services and support to disabled people and older people from across West Cheshire and the surrounding area, as well as their families and carers, since 1986. Their aim is to enable disabled people and older people to live sustained, independent lives.

“The T-Club” will launch at 3.15pm on Tuesday 15th May with afternoon tea in the Dial House cafe, Hamilton Place, Chester. The venue offers a flexible and accessible meeting space with refreshments available. The first T-Club session is FREE, after which modest charges will be put in place depending upon the event. T-Club places are limited and must be booked in advance.

All details on upcoming sessions will be available at or visit their Facebook page @DIALWestCheshire

For additional information or to join the T-Club as either a member or volunteer helper, please call 01244 345655 and ask for Jan Hallows or email

Contract Negotiations underway

Exciting times for Brightlife as we begin contract negotiations with the service providers who’ve submitted the highest scoring bids for our next three key commissions – to be announced on 4th May:

  1. Projects to Engage Older Men
  2. Projects for People Living with Long Term Conditions and/or their carers
  3. Dementia in Winsford and Chester
1: Projects to Engage Older Men

Age UK Cheshire – Winsford Super Shed
Age UK Cheshire is planning to take their highly successful Men in Sheds model to Winsford to create a ‘Super Shed’. It will be bigger than previous sheds, allowing for separate woodwork and metalwork spaces, a kitchen/mess room, quieter areas for IT equipment/classes and space for attendees to co-design new elements. It will also include space for a retail outlet, where the public can purchase and commission items made in the shed as part of a plan for sustainability.

Listening Ear – Men’s Health (project title to be co-designed)
The project aims to work with men aged 50+ who are isolated due to mental health issues resulting from major life changes. The men will receive 1:1 counselling for a period of time, before being encouraged to attend horticultural therapy sessions or being supported into other social activities available locally. The project will operate across Cheshire West and Chester.


2: Projects for People Living with Long Term Conditions and/or their carers

Cheshire and Warrington Carers Trust – Connecting Carers

The project aims to work with carers aged 50+ who are experiencing social isolation as a result of their caring role and in particular with those who are coming/have come to the end of their time as carers (due to bereavement/the person they’re caring for moving into a care home etc). They will be supported to access local activities and services. The project will operate across Cheshire West and Chester.

Neuromuscular Centre – Connect Up

The Neuromuscular Centre is planning to work with people aged 50+ living with long term conditions that fall under the umbrella of a neuromuscular condition and/or their carers. Participants will be able to attend workshops to understand and deal with isolation and loneliness and helped to access new and existing activities offered by the centre. Most of the delivery will take place at the centre in Winsford but will be open to any eligible participants from across Cheshire West and Chester.


3: Dementia in Winsford and Chester

Cheshire and Warrington Carers Trust in collaboration with The Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK Cheshire

This project will aim to reduce isolation and loneliness for people living with dementia and their carers in Winsford and Brightlife’s social prescribing areas in Chester. It will involve the creation of new activities, as well as training and support for existing activities, services and businesses to become dementia inclusive. The project is fully user led in all aspects and aims to change the culture around attitudes to dementia in these communities.

Women Makers Fab Club launches

Heal Earth CIC launching in North West is building on the success of its very popular Women only Woodwork classes delivered last year by launching new Project Women Makers Fab Club ( 50+) in partnership with “Woodwork To Wellness” craft centre in Saltney.

Women Makers Fab Club is a Brightlife funded project to help reduce social isolation in people aged over 50 in Cheshire West and Chester.

The project will run till April 2019 and aims to reach out and engage older women particularly  in Lache and Blacon, but also from Chester and Cheshire West, who are isolated or experience feelings of loneliness. They may have experienced some form of significant “transition” in life; e.g. bereavement, surgery, sudden ill health, loss of job or accident and/ or are struggling with daily tasks. We would like to focus on supporting women in building their confidence and resilience whilst contributing to their overall health and wellbeing, helping them have new purpose or friendships and circles of support in community.

Women Makers Fab Club Open day for any women aged over 50 interested in taking part will take place on Monday  9h April 10am-3pm followed by regular free sessions planned to start on Mondays  from 16th April, operating weekly from then on, between 10am and 12.30pm.

Woodwork to Wellness and craft centre is located in the Unit 4b, Saltney Business Centre
High St, Saltney, Chester CH4 8SE.

It offers a very warm and inviting facility where women will be able to enjoy making crafts from wood such as wooden bird boxes, ornaments, small pieces of furniture and much, much more or they will be able to just pop along for a cup of tea and a biscuit to get out of the house and have a chat.

As part of the Women Makers projects we will be facilitating several outreach sessions in community over the life of the project, offering mindful creative crafts like pyrography, decoupage and even having a go at some power tools like scroll saws or drills. We are hoping to generate interest for the projects and recruit more club members and volunteers to help out reach more isolated women in community.

Women joining the Women Makers Fab Club sessions on Mondays will have a chance to explore other avenues of involvement and work on their specific projects longer term with support of the team of volunteers at Heal Earth CIC and delegates at Woodwork to Wellness venue. They will be opportunity for them to join as a shed member and attend with other groups and activities throughout the week if they wish to.

Director and Founder of Heal Earth CIC, Aleksandra Ola Rug announced:

“We are delighted we are given opportunity to engage, inspire and connect women in the environment where women can come together: to share experiences, harness their skills, draw on their resources, influence and hopefully bring about lasting change in their lives. There is an cultural assumption that women are copying better with feeling of loneliness, we found upon meeting for example women who are carers to loved ones or family members, women can become very isolated and stressed out. We met a lot of women who lived with ongoing metal health challenges and become very isolated from their family members and friends due to feeling of shame and inadequacy.

At Heal Earth we believe supporting women who are older and vulnerable absolutely pivotal to address in order to help them with their essential needs, skills, identify network of friends, new relationships they can bring to their life to feel less lonely and more resilient.

We would like to thank the Brightlife for their support with making this development possible.”

Those interested in attending the Women Makers Open day on Monday 9th April please just turn up any time during the day, for tose who can’t attend but would like to  register your interest to attend the club, please contact Heal Earth Project Coordinator Ola Rug on 07501323837 or email

Bishop blesses the Blacon bus

On Monday the Bishop of Birkenhead, the Rt. Reverend Keith Sinclair, blessed the new Blacon on the Move minibus.

The aim of the project is outreach provision enabling socially isolated older people to access activities in the local area utilising a community minibus. The minibus seats 16 people and is wheelchair-accessible.

The Blacon on the Move scheme is a project organised by Holy Trinity Church Blacon. To find out more contact John on 07930 729477 or

Donna Hufton (Brighter Days)

“If there was anything I could do to combat loneliness in older people it would be to find out where people are…that’s the most difficult part. We can reach the people we know about but it is the ones we don’t know about that are suffering in silence.”

Brightlife is part of the Big Lottery’s Ageing Better Programme and works to reduce loneliness and social isolation amongst the over 50s. Brightlife funds a number of grassroots community projects through an initiative called ‘Bright ideas’.  Many of these projects are designed and delivered by women so as the world celebrates International Women’s Day on 8th March, Cheshire West and Chester’s Brightlife partnership is taking the opportunity to celebrate everything these amazing women do to combat loneliness in older people.

Meet Donna Hufton a Sheltered Housing Officer at Muir Group Housing Association. Donna manages a scheme of 37 sheltered flats in Vicars Cross, Chester. Donna tells us she loves working with older people and is really passionate about making a difference to their lives. She explained that social isolation and loneliness in older people is a massive problem.

“At the scheme where I work, a few of the ladies felt particularly lonely around Christmas and the holidays – some have family who live far away and others don’t have any family or friends at all. They wanted to do something to bring people together to try and combat those feelings of isolation. We came across Brightlife’s Bright Ideas which provided us with funding to for special parties for two years. This has really helped reduce those feelings of loneliness around the holiday season,” Donna said.

When asked what she would like to see from the new Minister for Loneliness, Donna said she would like to see continued awareness raising of the problem and different ways of funding local events so that more groups like hers can get together, helping older people to make friends and spend time together.

Talking about whether she sees a difference between men and women in making friends in older age, she said: “Both men and women find it difficult to make friendships in older age. I think women are more likely to get involved in social events but women in particular tend to put themselves down. They don’t feel they have a right, a voice, a place in society so we need to encourage them to get out there and prove they do have something to offer.”

Donna believes that International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women in the UK and all over the world. She has organised an inspirational women’s day at the sheltered housing scheme, asking friends and family of the older people who live there to nominate the women in their lives that have made a difference to them. She believes that this will prove to the older ladies that have achieved so much and still have so much to offer.When asked how it feels to be recognised by Brightlife as one of their amazing women in the community, Donna said:

“It’s very flattering but I don’t consider myself to be an amazing woman! I love the work I do and the people I work with. I think the women who volunteer and help to make the lives of older people better are the amazing women, not me!”

Interview by Kate Cousens in celebration of International Women’s Day 2018


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