The Durham Ox in Crayke is launching a monthly Friendship Lunch next month to get locals of all ages to reach out to others in their area and raise awareness of the issue of social isolation in the local community.
The monthly get-togethers will offer good company and good food – everything from small bites such as soup and homemade bread to main courses such as the Ox’s famous fish and chips, and three-course meals – in an effort to help combat loneliness in rural areas.
Owner Michael Ibbotson’s good Yorkshire welcome and his family’s communal attitude to mealtimes mean he has always placed a convivial ‘pull-up another chair approach’ at the heart of his pub.
With an increasing number of village shops and community facilities closing, he feels rural communities are increasingly relying on pubs for community cohesion.
“Eating is such a social practice and has a crucial impact upon physical, social and mental health,” said Michael.
“We hope our lunches will be a doorstep to friendship for people who might not otherwise have the chance to get out and meet one another.
“I am sure everyone knows of a friend or a neighbour who might not have had a great Christmas, or spends a lot of time on their own without many visitors – and it’s up to communities like ours, rather than central government, to get people together.”
Age UK, which is Britain’s largest charity working with older people, has championed The Durham Ox’s new initiative. Its research discovered that two fifths of older people (about 3.9 million) say television is their main company.
“We can all do our bit to help fight the growing problem of loneliness by making time for older people and checking in on older friends and neighbours who we might know,” said Alex Bird, executive officer at Age UK.
“Small changes and acts of kindness can make a real difference, and it’s fantastic to see pubs like The Durham Ox doing their bit to combat loneliness.
“What better place to encourage people to meet than their community pub, a great place to forge new friendships.
“It would be fantastic to see other pubs launching their own Friendship Lunches, as this could really make a difference in rural communities.”