Yearly Archives: 2019

Vintage Pride in Chester

Older LGBT+ people are being encouraged to invited to dress up in their finest 1950s attire and come along to Vintage Pride – a dedicated space at the Chester Pride Festival – on 10 August.

After taking part in the parade, they are invited to head back to the Vintage Pride marquee where they can enjoy a 1950s milk-bar and silent disco with sing-along in Makaton.

Silver Rainbows launched Vintage Pride three years ago to help the older LGBT+ community feel less isolated.

“We wanted to create a space with a different tempo to the parade, somewhere people could sit down and chat over a cup tea,” said Colin Avery, Community Development Worker for Silver Rainbows who organises the event along with Age UK Cheshire, Brightlife Cheshire and Body Positive. “We also wanted to encourage different generations to come together and share their experiences.”

Someone who has attended Vintage Pride every year since the start is Isabel Jeffrey (77) from Winsford – a trans woman who started living openly as Isabel around five years ago.

She cares for her wife of 56 years Margaret who suffers with dementia so, for her, it’s a rare opportunity to have some respite.

“The support we get from Vintage Pride has made such a difference,” she said. “It means I can enjoy the parade without having to worry about Margaret as they look after her for me.

“The crowds wave and interact – it’s so exhilarating. I’m standing up and being counted. It makes me feel normal and shows people we’re nothing to be scared of.”

Older LGBT+ adults are at higher risk of experiencing social isolation, social stigma and health problems than their heterosexual counterparts according to a Strategy Group for the Ageing Better programme established by The National Lottery Community Fund.

“Many older LGBT+ people have had lots of experiences of prejudice and there are still older people who find it difficult to be out and open and accepted,” said Colin. “Being part of Vintage Pride really helps them feel part of the community.”

More information about Vintage Pride can be found at or contact, 01270 653150

Read the latest Ageing Better reports on reducing social isolation in LGBT+ communities aged over 50:

LGBT+ social networks report

Social isolation in LGBT+ communities report



Brightlights Theatre Group

Brightlights is a pioneering acting group for the over 50s which meets weekly at Neston Theatre Arts.

Run by Samantha Giblin, the Artistic Director of the Little Actors Theatre Company, along with director Mike Lockley, the group was launched in early 2018.

According to Mike, the value of participating in the arts shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Acting is especially good for older people as learning lines has huge benefits for memory while the sense of achievement in putting on a play really helps to build confidence and self esteem,” he says.

Founder member David Tidbury (66) from Ellesmere Port already had acting experience when he saw an advert for the project so he thought it would be fun to try it again.

“It’s a great social activity and I’ve made some good friends,” he says. “For those two hours I’m here, it’s an escape and I can forget about my troubles. And it gave me a real lift when we got so many nominations for our last performance.”

Samantha stresses that members don’t have to be aspiring actors as there are plenty of other opportunities to be involved such as stage management, lighting, sound and producing.

Arthur Ronald (83) from Neston was a complete novice to acting when he joined and found he enjoyed the sense of community. “It’s great to be with a group of people that all have a joint venture with an end goal. It’s such a constructive and absorbing activity to be a part of.”

Arthur says it’s also widened his horizons as he now chaperones those involved in youth theatre and really enjoys spending time with a different generation.

“It’s so enriching being involved in a drama – it helps work your brain and it leads you to unexpected avenues,” he said. “You learn so much about different things which can only be a good thing.”

Members, who range in age from mid 50s to mid 80s, wrote a play, ‘The Cruise’ which they performed at a the Leverhulme Drama Festival at the Gladstone Theatre in Port Sunlight and received five nominations and the award for Best Presentation.

For more details about Brightlights Theatre, contact 0151 336 4302 or or

(Brightlights is holding a workshop at the Storyhouse in Chester for the Great Get Together on 21 June at 2.30pm as part of its Celebrating Age Programme.)

Growing Connections in Northwich

Growing Connections is a Brightlife-funded project for people aged 50+ designed to encourage and support participants to enjoy the outdoors, make new friends, keep active, learn new skills or just rediscover a love of gardening.

It’s hosted at Grozone’s Community Garden; a horticultural and wildlife project situated in the middle of Northwich, where Caroline Rose is the Development Officer.

“Growing Connections is about getting people of all ages together to do healthy activities that make them feel better,” she says. “We’re quite flexible in the activities we do, it can be anything from crafts to growing food to cooking. It does everyone so much good in a myriad of ways – the older ones share their knowledge and skills with the younger ones. It’s very enriching.”

One thing we’ve noticed is that people living on their own don’t really tend to bulk-buy fresh food from the supermarket but because we grow our own fruit and vegetables here, they can just take a little of what they need – whether that’s a handful of lettuce or just one carrot– they don’t have to waste produce. For those that can’t cook, we make healthy meals here so everyone can eat well.”

Someone who has found a sense of purpose with Growing Connections is retired service technician Roy Pearce (69) from Wincham. After his wife of 46 years died, he found himself at a loose end and was feeling quite low. His worried family found out about Grozone so he decided to give it a go.

“I do a bit of everything there,” he says “from weeding to picking fruit to helping people with learning difficulties saw with wood. I needed to tire myself out so I can get a good night’s sleep but it’s also widened my friendship group.”

“While I’m helping them, I’m not missing my wife. They look at me like a father figure and it makes me feel useful… I get as much out of them as they get out of me.”

The project is positive for everyone involved as it adds structure, helps improve self-esteem and allows people to feel a part of a community – all with the added benefit of being out in the fresh air.

“It fills gaps that are needed,” Caroline explains “I’ve always had a fear of being stuck inside because of ill health when I’m older. That’s why I wanted this opportunity to be available and I hope it still will be for me when the time comes! Thanks to the Brightlife funding, over 30 new participants were introduced to the ‘Growing Connections’ group where they’ve been able to develop and share their skills with a real sense of purpose knowing they are supporting others. Whilst this funding has just ended, the existing participants have now all joined other Grozone groups where they volunteer their time to support our other projects and those less capable than themselves.

Quotes from Participants:

“I have some mobility problems so can’t get out and about on my own – so I love coming to Grozone with my two girlfriends as a way of getting away from home for a few hours. I love gardening but can no longer do heavy work such as digging… but they have raised beds which makes it easier to plant, pick and weed. I really enjoy the social aspect too – you can join a group then just sit and chat while learning a new craft. It is a wonderful place, everyone makes you feel so welcome and I can do things at my own pace.

Growing Connections Participant.


As part of other help, activities and counselling I consider my time at Grozone to have been (and continuing to be) most positive to my health and mental outlook. It’s hard for me to quantify this benefit using words, and its not easy to tick your [evaluation questionnaire] boxes in a way that conveys this. Metrics aside, I can say Grozone is working for me!

Grozone Participant


Grozone has been like a second home to me. I would be lost without it… it has got me out of my four walls and built up my confidence.

John Bate


Christine Milton (75) – Community Connector

Christine has recently become a volunteer buddy and befriender for Brightlife in the Saltney and Chester area. Her role is to visit people who might need support and find out how they can be helped – whether it be just a bit of company or encouragement to join one of the social groups.

She decided to volunteer after being helped by Brightlife herself when she was struggling. “I was widowed fairly recently and then I had to stop working through ill health,” she said. “For the first time I’m living on my own and I hate it. I suddenly understood what loneliness was and it’s the most horrible thing in the world. Fortunately a friend recommended I contact Brightlife and I can honestly say it’s been a lifesaver.”

Christine’s first contact was when a Brightlife worker came to visit her and told her which groups and activities were available in her area and accompanied Christine when she first visited them.

“I never thought I’d join a social group as I didn’t fancy it but I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. Everyone was so friendly. It was so nice to be accompanied as I’m a bit shy in social situations. I would never have gone otherwise so it makes so much difference for people who are hesitant.”

As Christine realised how much she was benefiting from meeting people again she decided to volunteer as a befriender. After visiting her first client she said she left on quite a high as she felt she was finally being of use to someone.

“It gives you a good feeling as there are a heck of a lot of lonely older people out there,” she said. “I recently met a 94-year-old woman at one of the groups who goes dancing and her memory is as sharp as anything. Instead of just sitting in a chair, Brightlife is helping her to live her life and I’m sure it will do the same for me. It’s given me the push I needed so I really can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done.”

Emma Fisher – Chatter Chairs

After the second time Emma Fisher was made redundant, she decided it was time to change her life so two years ago she retrained as a personal fitness instructor and launched her own business Diva Fitness.

Having noticed that there wasn’t much on offer for the over 50s, Emma took it upon herself to set something up to serve this neglected sector of the community. Finding funds to start her project was proving difficult until Brightlife came along. Chatter Chairs was launched in 2018 – a pioneering form of chair-based exercises using free weights and resistance bands to boost muscle strength and balance.

Emma opened two centres – one in Vicars Cross and the other in Hoole – with the focus on health and making new friendships.
“Muscle weakness and poor balance are the two most common risk factors for falls – which can lead to injuries such as hip fractures and means people are more likely to end up in hospital or need social care,” said Emma. “My classes can help mitigate these risks and it really helps them to regain their confidence – both physically and socially.”

The classes have been a huge hit with the local community. Recently she was delighted to have been awarded a further grant to expand and open a third venue in January 2019 at the newly-built St Mary’s Church centre in Handbridge.“I really enjoy chatting with the other members as well as the exercises that Emma has adapted for me,” said Jo Swift, 55. “I’m in a wheelchair so, when the other members are doing their leg exercises, Emma has devised extra ones that I can do with my upper body.”For ninety-three-year-old Mary Maddocks it’s her only weekly outing. “I can move better now and feel much more supple,” she says. “I really enjoy the company and Emma is friendly and gives clear instructions.”

Since starting, Emma has helped over 85 older people regain their strength and flexibility by adapting the class to suit individual needs – reaching out to those with Parkinson’s disease, Spina Bifida and even dementia. “It’s a fantastic way to bring older people in the community together while improving their health and wellbeing,” she says. The social benefits are a huge draw and 70-year-old Celia Powell, whose knee has improved significantly since she’s been going, describes the classes as “a lovely social get together”. “It’s everything I needed and more!,” she says.

Brighter Ideas funding announced

Over £75,000 additional funding has been awarded to 9 Bright Ideas projects to improve the lives of older people in Cheshire West and Chester.

Funding was allocated as follows:

Diva Fitness – Chatter Chairs (£5,956)

Following on from their successful Bright Ideas project targeting Vicars Cross and Hoole, Diva Fitness are expanding their chair-based exercise and strengthening project. Currently running successfully in Hoole and Vicars Cross, their plan is to expand this provision into Handbridge.

The Welding Academy – Cre8tive (£9,558.50)

Cre8tive aims to offer a half day per week workshop to offer metal craft and other arts activities which will spark imagination and creativity. Participants will have opportunities to make and sell their work which will contribute to the sustainability of the project.

Snow Angels – Lonely in a Crowd (£7,036)

Lonely in a Crowd – a regular weekly social club for people with learning disabilities and/or autism as well as people with dementia and their carers. Their plan is to train staff and volunteers in the use of Makaton and to provide an opportunity for them to practice their skills with service users.

The Reader – One to One Shared Reading (£9,785)

Brighter Lives with 1:1 Shared Reading aims to support those who suffer mental or physical barriers that prevent them from leaving their homes. They will to do this by offering a shared reading experience on a 1:1 basis.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust – Promote for Nature (£9,800)

Promote for Nature plan to expand their current provision to offer another day of delivery. In order to do this they need to pro-actively market the goods they are making. This in turn will enable them to grow the capacity of the group. Unusually for a Brightlife project the focus of this application will be on the professional promotion of the “Create for Nature” brand through photography/design/social media/video/banners which will enable them to compete in a very competitive market.

The Neuromuscular Centre, CCIL & C&WCC – Reel Connections (£4,000)

Reel Connections is drawing on the experience of the “Read and Connect” project which has just finished. It will provide performance-based activities, primarily films, to a target group of socially isolated over 50s. Participants will have long-term disabling conditions or have a caring role. Sessions will involve visits to the cinema/theatre with additional social opportunities.

DIAL West Cheshire – T-Club Plus (£10,000)

Volunteering activity sessions specifically targeting older men e.g. allotments, maintenance, IT, mobility equipment work shop. Working in partnership with Chester Sexual Abuse Support Service (CSASS). Based on the assumption that men tend to like to help rather be helped, participants will support DIAL House with the running of the centre as well as have horticultural opportunities at their allotment.

Heal Earth – Women Makers Mindful Crafts (£9,400)

A series of outreach mindful crafts sessions in Blacon and Lache. Research has shown that there is a demand for mindful crafts in these areas. Craft workshops will be used to offer support through “sharing circle” time and other therapies to improve mental health and overall well-being.

Bridge Wellness Gardens – Woodworking Activity Club (£9,500)

A weekly woodworking activities club for over 50s. Participants will have opportunities to develop their skills using hand and power tools including using a lathe. They will make items such as garden planters and pens.

Yvonne Boyle and Simone Cobbold – Community Compass

Yvonne Boyle and Simone Cobbold met on a project for Age UK in 2013. Having both worked with older people for years, they were becoming increasingly concerned about social isolation and its negative effect on health.
Conscious that many older people find it hard to make new friends, they put their heads together and a couple of years later they launched Community Compass – a youth club for the over 50s.

By joining a club, older people can access a weekly social group within their local community – giving them the opportunity to make new friends, learn new skills and enjoy new activities while staying active and independent.

With the help of funding from Brightlife, in October 2017 Yvonne and Simone launched ‘Share Clubs’ which match lonely older people with a local volunteer who helps them in a variety of ways. This can be a weekly visit and delivery of free FareShare groceries, dropping round with a home-cooked meal or even just a regular phone call to check they’re ok and have a chat.

“I find it so fulfilling,” said Yvonne. “For me it’s fabulous when you can introduce someone to a new activity and just watch them grow in confidence. It’s an amazing feeling to know that we are making a real difference to people’s lives – I really think it’s important to share kindness around.”

By signing up to the Share Club, members are also invited to a monthly day out where they can make or meet new friends, participate in a range of activities, enjoy a hot home-cooked lunch and go home with a packed tea and some fresh groceries. Free transport is also available if needed.

“It’s great to see people growing in confidence within the groups – making new friends and then supporting other new members to make them feel welcome,” said Simone. “I believe people want to be social but sometimes life changes and ill health can get in the way. They need reminding what it’s like not to be lonely because, if you’ve lost confidence and self esteem, it can often feel easier to stay at home.

“At Community Compass we make it as easy as possible for people to begin to be social again. This could be an encouraging phone call, a home visit, matching them with a suitable volunteer or offering help with transport. All of our groups are friendly, inclusive and welcoming to new members and we work hard to make sure they stay this way.”

Although Yvonne and Simone only met six years ago, they’ve struck a really strong friendship. “Ultimately we have the same goal,” says Yvonne, “continue to support vulnerable people to enjoy their communities while having lots of fun and laughter while doing so!”

A busy Wellbeing Week for Winsford

A week bursting with activities and events

This February Brightlife was delighted to be part of the Wellbeing Winsford Week once again. The week opened with a launch event party at the Dingle Centre, hosted by Community Compass, with speeches from Winsford Town Mayor Gina Lewis, Dr Achla Damania and Ailsa Gaskell-Jones to welcome everyone to the event. The celebrations continued at the centre with music from the Ageless Ukes, dancing, crafts and lunch provided for all.

Working in collaboration with the Winsford Wellbeing Hub, Brightlife were proud to be supporting an initiative that unites the community of Winsford through a week-long celebration of its residents, services, volunteers, carers and medical practitioners. Wellbeing Winsford Week is all about providing opportunities for healthy living by taking part in new activities, meeting different people and finding out how to live a healthy lifestyle.

We are very grateful to Brightlife for all the work they have done in Winsford.  They have brought together so many different organisations to help those who are on their own, those who have limited resources… and we’re all very, very thankful for all that they do.

Winsford Town Mayor, Cllr, Gina Lewis

The programme of events included seated exercise with Community Compass, exercise classes (including Zumba Gold, Tai Chi and Body Balance) at the Winsford Lifestyle Centre, a dementia friendly walk with Bright Memories and a Family Fun day with Active Cheshire to name but a few! The focus of ‘Wellbeing Winsford week’ is to provide local people with fresh opportunities to live healthier lives whilst being encouraged to meet new people and stay connected to their community.

Being socially active and engaged with the community keeps you healthy both physically and mentally. In fact, people with strong social networks tend to be more energetic, feel happier and are more supported. Having a sense of purpose helps us feel more satisfied and lead a fuller life.

None of this is possible of course without a strong supportive community where people care about and look after one another… and nowhere is this better illustrated than with our very own Wellbeing Winsford Week.  I wish you all wonderful week, whether that’s painting pebbles, burning calories at bootcamp, making origami, attending a Teddy Bear’s picnic or doing laughter yoga!

Dr Achla Damania. Swanlow Medical Centre, Winsford.

The week concluded with a bustling marketplace event at Winsford Cross Shopping Centre with Winsford Wellbeing partners, including Healthwatch Cheshire West and Motherwell Cheshire, on hand to talk to people about the many health and wellbeing initiatives that taking place across the town.

We would like to thank the Wellbeing Winsford Hub for organising and involving us in this super event. Special thanks to Anne Johnson (Cross Hatch) for designing the artwork for the promotional material and colouring competition, and to Damon Horrill (Cornerstone Inns) for donating the competition prizes and discount vouchers.

Christine Kelly (61) – Heal Earth

Christine explains, “A couple of years ago I had a breakdown and wasn’t able to work. I realise now looking back that I was a workaholic and it was my body’s way of telling me that I needed to slow down. I was suffering with anxiety and realising I couldn’t go back to work, felt like I had lost my purpose, so I wanted to do something that would get me out of the house helping others in some way. After attending a Brightlife event I found out about the Heal Earth sessions so volunteered at the Fab Maker Workshops. I haven’t looked back since then, it has really helped me to increase my confidence and give me a purpose again.”

Wellbeing Winsford Week 2019

This February half term, Monday 18th – Saturday 23rd, Winsford residents are invited to take part in a week- long programme of free, fun events taking place across the town. These activities range from celebrations, social gatherings and exercise classes to workshops, talks and information events.

The focus of the week is to provide local people with fresh opportunities to live healthier lives whilst being encouraged to meet new people and stay connected to their community.

Download your brochure here to find out about all the activities taking place across Winsford.

Enter our Colouring Competition for a chance to win a meal for 4.


Pauline Stott (61) and Rob McKenzie (65) – FabWeld

Andy Ball is a fabricator and welder as well as an artist and a trainer. He works with The Welding Academy to run training a 6-week welding course for the over 50’s. Andy teaches the group rudimentary skills that they can then go away and apply themselves at home.

Pauline Stott (61) found out about the group on Facebook and despite having never done any kind of metalwork before, decided to give it a go. Pauline said: “I have kept all of the horseshoes my prized horse used to wear and I am really looking forward to making something out of them that I can keep”. Pauline encouraged her friend Rob McKenzie (65) to join her on the class and he is now enjoying doing something different which he can put to practical use. As well as a decorative dog for his daughter, he is making a stand for an old bakery mixing bowl that he has at home. Rob said: “Some people might be put off at the sound of welding but it really is easier than you think. We get shown what to do and given supervision to make our own projects. The group is great because we give one another advice and guidance along the way. I am now able to do own metal bending which I am putting to use with projects at home!”.