Friendship lunch provides turkey, tunes and companionship

TURKEY, tinsel and tunes — friends old and new gathered for a special Christmas lunch to help reduce social isolation and loneliness...and the Advertiser grabbed a ticket to the festivities.

The “friendship lunch” at the Manor Barn in Kimberworth was organised by freelance community consultant Kathy Markwick, who came up with the idea of the events five years ago after noticing how widespread loneliness was among the older community.

The festive-themed lunch was the first to be held at the Manor Barn, on Church Street, which is managed by Paul Foster and Tom Bell.

The pair also manage the Norfolk Arms in Chapeltown and the Red Lion in Grenoside which have both hosted previous friendship lunches.

Mrs Markwick (inset, below) said she hoped to repeat the success of previous events at the new venue in Rotherham — around 40 people turned up for the inaugural event at the Holiday Inn Barnsley, while the most attendees over the years, and pre-pandemic, was 250 guests.

“Guests at our lunches get so much out of it,” she said. “The events give people something to look forward to and dress up for, and are an opportunity to make new friends as well as meet up with old ones.

“Live music makes such a difference. It can be relaxing or it can take people back to certain times in their lives and sharing memories.

“It can also get people up dancing — we had one lady who got out of her wheelchair and was doing sitting down dancing on the floor!”

And while guests are fond of the classic tunes of yesteryear and golden oldies, there can be some contemporary song choices, too.

“At another event we held, our singer asked if anyone had any requests and a chap in his eighties asked for Little Mix!” said Kathy.

Guests at the Manor Barn event were treated to a range of songs by Barnsley singer and pianist Oliver Harris, who has performed sell-out Elton John and Elvis Presley shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Oliver sang a string of festive favourites, including White Christmas, Silver Bells, and Oh Come All Ye Faithful, as well as Elvis classics The Wonder of You and Love Me Tender.

Before tucking into turkey and all the trimmings — and Christmas pudding for dessert — guests also heard from Mark Smith of Rotherham Samaritans, who shared his “rewarding experience” of becoming a “fully fledged volunteer” for the charity after completing his training earlier this year.

He also appealed for others to get involved, saying the national Samaritans service took a “call for help” every seven seconds, and volunteers came from all walks of life from students through to people in employment and others who have retired.

Guest Janet Jackson (74) booked tickets for the event after reading about the friendship lunch in the Advertiser and was joined by husband Peter (75) and her brother John Waller.

Janet, from Kimberworth, said they had been to the venue a few times before for family events and liked the sound of the friendship lunch, adding: “It has been lovely and we have really enjoyed it.”

The family all agreed it had been good to attend an event together as it had been tough to not see each other during the pandemic restrictions.

Mr Waller said: “We live quite near each other but couldn’t see each other like we normally would during the pandemic.

“But I can’t complain as a lot of people had it worse — our eldest sister’s husband was already housebound so it was very difficult for them.”

During the Covid-19 restrictions, Mrs Markwick organised a virtual event on Facebook Live to help guests reunite online and enjoy an afternoon of music and said she was “overjoyed” to be able to host a festive party in person in the pub with a singer entertaining the guests.

“I’m so pleased with how this first event has gone,” she said. “Being able to get people together like this to socialise and seeing people chatting has been just lovely.

“I’m really grateful to the organisations who have kindly sponsored our inaugural event — Norrie Waite Slater Solicitors, Visiting Angels UK and SCCCC.

“We had one guest who arrived and said he will be returning with his son and daughter-in-law next time and hopefully their baby, too — there’s no age limit on friendship lunches!

“Plus two ladies who were sat nearby in the pub overheard Oliver singing and the music and really enjoyed it and have said they will be booking onto the next event, too.”  

Subject to government restrictions, the next friendship lunch will be on Wednesday, January 26, with entertainment once again by Oliver Harris.

To book tickets contact the Manor Barn direct on 01709 551089.

To discuss hosting or sponsoring a friendship lunch, please contact Kathy Markwick on 07729 528844 or email [email protected].

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