“Something as small as a free cup of tea can lead to much bigger things”

Ann is 65 years-old and is the director of a Suffolk charity called Rural Coffee Caravan. Her ‘Meet-up Monday’ scheme, which offers a place for people to meet up over a free cuppa, is a great example of how we can all Be More Us.

In this blog she talks about the life changing effect Meet-up Mondays have had for hundreds of people in her area.

The Coffee Caravan in action

The Coffee Caravan in action

We have two mobile community cafés and information centres to bring people together and tackle loneliness and rural isolation. Our new project is called ‘Meet-Up Mondays’. Inspired by The Alexandra pub in Wimbledon, Meet-Up Mondays means a pub or café offers two hours on a Monday to folk “fed-up with their own company”.

People can come in for free tea, toast, and friendly conversation. In the space of 4 weeks we have set up 17 Meet-Up Monday groups, with more in the pipeline.

The first Meet-Up Monday group was in a pub Lowestoft. It was a cold, wet and windy day and I was nervous that the weather might have put people off. Unsure of where I was going despite the dulcet tones of the satnav I cautiously drove into an old-fashioned housing estate and found the pub. I had no idea what to expect as I pushed the door open. Would Meet-Up Mondays be a success?

“I love it – I’m out in ‘real life'”

A Meet-Up Monday in Ipswich

A Meet-Up Monday in Ipswich

I walked into a sea of chatter and smiling faces. Despite the weather there were over 20 people there, all having a great time. The landlord had set up a table with tea and coffee, toast, butter, jam and marmalade. There were newspapers and even bowls of chocolates. I knew in an instant that the landlord understood the whole concept of Meet-Up Mondays, and I couldn’t stop grinning.

I started chatting to a lovely lady, dressed head to toe in red. She had obviously felt the occasion worth dressing up for! I asked her if she was enjoying herself. She clasped her hands to her chest and said, “I love it – I’m out in ‘real life’!”

She told me that if she wasn’t at the Meet-Up Monday, she would be home alone ‘as usual’. Hardly anyone there had known each other before that morning, but there they were, arranging to come back in together soon for a group meal.

A recently widowed gentleman told us that he had taken a taxi across town because he couldn’t drive. He was immediately assured of a lift home, and lifts back to future meet-ups. It was a magical morning. The landlord and the folk who had come in to help were standing around with grins on their faces, loving every minute.

It’s for everyone

The beauty of Meet-Up Mondays is that the anxiety about coming into a pub or café alone has been removed. More than that, it’s for everyone; it’s not aimed at a particular interest or age group. It gives people the chance to connect – which is what Be More Us is about.

Something as small as a free cup of tea can lead to much bigger things: friendship, fun and support. A simple and generous gesture by a business can bring people together and give them permission to connect.

Human beings need human contact in order to flourish. Without that we just wither away. Meet-Up Mondays are giving people a new lease of life. All the pestering of media and nervously being interviewed on radio; my mug in the papers; all the tweeting, Facebooking, talking about it to anyone who stood still long enough – had been worth it.

We’re proud to be part of the Be More Us movement. Meet-Up Mondays prove that it’s easy to come together and Be More Us.