Yesterday morning, a few of us from Chandler’s Ford Today attended the unique ribbon-less re-opening ceremony of the Dovetail Centre at the Methodist Church. It was a warm and friendly place as usual, buzzing with excitement.
It was certainly a day of celebration, and also a day of reflection on the problem of loneliness in our community, and how we could all reach out to support one another.
Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP Mr Steve Brine officially re-opened the fully refurbished Dovetail Centre. At first he joked that he was about to use the opportunity to repeat the Prime Minister’s Brexit speech. It was such a significant event in the Chandler’s Ford community that many leaders and representatives from the local community all attended to celebrate together.
- MP Steve Brine, Winchester and Chandler’s Ford MP
- Councillor Maureen Sollitt, the Mayor of the Borough of Eastleigh
- Revd Dr Andrew Wood, Chairman of the Southampton District of the Methodist Church
- Councillor Margaret Atkinson, Chairman of Chandler’s Ford Parish Council
- Councillor Judith Grajewski, also Hampshire County Councillor
The Mayor Councillor Maureen Sollitt said she was very delighted to see real communication taking place in Chandler’s Ford, as it is important that people share and care for one another.
The Mayor also mentioned briefly her childhood memory with the Methodist Church. She remembered when she was very little, she was taken to visit many chapels in Hampshire by her dear uncle, who as a lay preacher always dreamt about running his own church.
Steve Brine MP: tackling loneliness
Mr Steve Brine, in his speech, praised the work of the late MP Jo Cox in her dedication to combat loneliness in the UK, and highlighted the importance of fighting loneliness in our community. Jo Cox started Loneliness Commission during her time in the parliament, and her work was marked by her compassion and her passion.
Mr Brine said that some people may find church to be too exclusive, so as a church, it’s important we reach out to bring people together. Mr Brine understands the loneliness challenge in our country is absolutely huge. Many people are isolated. He shared that when visiting residents with other councillors, he sometimes comes across some lonely residents, ‘sometimes you are the only person the person might see all day or even longer’.
Mr Brine is very impressed by the community work at the Dovetail Centre. He also praised the effort of Councillor Judith Grajewski for her help in securing funding for the project. Mr Brine also asked the minister of Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church Revd Peter Cornick to explain why the church invested so heavily in the development of the Dovetail Centre.
The Revd Peter Cornick: engaging with the community
The Revd Peter Cornick emphasised that the church always wants to engage with the community. The Dovetail Centre has been widely used by many community groups over the past 25 years, people are sharing, listening, and talking, and it is important that the church and community come together.
Revd Peter Cornick, minister of Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church, said Dovetail plays an important role to connect the community and the church. The Dovetail Centre has been a place where the church worships, prays, and shares fellowship together. It’s also a place where charities raise money, where communities discuss their local business, and where people have met and listened to one another. He said that it’s precious and god-giving to meet, listen, and talk to one another through the Dovetail Centre in our community.
Of course, Rev Cornick said, it’s a place where copious cups of coffee have been drunk, and Dovetail Centre is an important outreach work in the community.
He also reminded people of the true spirit of the refurbishment.
The wonderful new carpet colours, chairs and so on, will be of nothing if we do not continue as a church as community to listen, talk, and share with one another. Because that is what the Dovetail Centre is all about.
Revd Dr Andrew Wood later led a prayer for the Dovetail Centre.
Brief History of Dovetail Centre
The Dovetail Centre, the extended church and its premises were dedicated on Saturday, 25th September, 1993, after a two-year Dovetail Project. 25 years have flown by, and the furnishings and fittings of the Dovetail Centre were in urgent need of an update.
It is estimated that the footfall in The Coffee Room (led by Jane Archer) alone has reached 400,000 people. Each year, over 30 groups regularly use the Dovetail Centre, including the Parish Council, the Memory Support Group, Messy Church, the U3A, the Joint Charities Annual Christmas Market, and the harvest lunch.
Mr Steve Brine also holds his regular surgery at the Dovetail Centre.
An old photo of the old Methodist Church in Chandler’s Ford:
The cost and grants
The total cost of the refurbishment project is below the £30,000 budget, including various grants of £18,600 from the community. These include:
- The National Lottery
- Southampton District of the Methodist Church
- Winchester, Eastleigh and Romsey Circuit
- Methodist Insurance plc
- Denplan Community Fund (towards an automatic door opener)
- Hampshire County Council
- Chandler’s Ford U3A
Loneliness: stigma and taboo
BBC recently reported that in Manchester, a 90-year-old man named Derek Taylor shared how he felt lonely, and learnt to tackle loneliness. (Loneliness: The cost of the ‘last taboo’ – BBC News)
Researchers also have put a financial price on an “epidemic of loneliness” – the extra economic cost of loneliness is calculated as £6,000, in health cost and pressure on local services.
The research highlighted stigma is often associated with loneliness. However the study by the London School of Economics study also says for every £1 spent in preventing loneliness, there are £3 of savings.
Mr Taylor told the BBC that he had lost a partner, and his sister had passed away. “And the older you get, the less people seem to contact you. And I thought, ‘What can I do to stop being lonely?’”
What are the top tips to be less lonely?
He created a list of tips to help him cope. His action-packed suggestions were published in this booklet distributed by the Manchester City Council, which seeks to improve life for seniors through an initiative called Age-Friendly. Taylor’s heartwarming tips are on page 13 of the booklet. He said:
From time to time we can all feel lonely. I’d like to share my top ten tips, which helped me to feel less lonely:
- Make an effort to make new friends
- Join a hobbies club
- Visit your local community or resource centre and find out what’s on offer
- Learn to use a computer at your local library
- Seek help from your local social services
- Consider taking in a lodger or paying guest
- Use your telephone more often to contact people; don’t wait for people to contact you
- Contact friends and relatives you haven’t spoken to recently
- Make friends with your neighbors
- Do voluntary work if you are able to
This research links well to the topic of combating loneliness in the re-opening of the refurbished Dovetail Centre. In Chandler’s Ford, we have many kind and caring people, who dedicate their time to care for especially the elderly and the vulnerable in our community. For example, many volunteers from Chandler’s Ford Good Neighbours drive and escort people to local medical appointments, take people to hospital appointments, help with shopping, take someone to visit their partner in a local care home, and also befriend people.
Supporting Community Transport to help fight loneliness
New parents and people who are new to Chandler’s Ford will also find the Dovetail Centre a good place to meet people and find resources.
Our local Community Transport plays a big part in supporting the most vulnerable, marginalised people in the community. Currently the Hampshire County Council funding for Dial-a-Ride and Community Transport is at risk of being cut, and at the Dovetail Centre re-opening yesterday, many people signed the petition to save the valuable services. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, please have a read of this article and show your support.
Councillor Margaret Atkinson: support from the Parish Council to fight loneliness
Yesterday morning I also had a chance to speak to Barbara Lowe, Chairman of Chandler’s Ford Good Neighbours, and Councillor Margaret Atkinson. Barbara said it’s vital that the elderly people have access to the community transport, to live a fulfilling life socially. Mrs Atkinson said she is fully aware of the challenge of loneliness, and promises to continue working with the Good Neighbours and local community groups to provide more support to meet the needs of the community.
The automatic door opener is now a great feature of the refurbished centre. Regular visitors to the Dovetail Centre Paul and Morris also enjoyed the event yesterday. Paul said he has found the automatic door opener very helpful.
Transformation: Dovetail Centre and Dovetail Centre Café
Refurbishment for a Modern and Contemporary Dovetail Centre at the Methodist Church
Jane Archer – A Simple Vision, and 37 Years Leading The Coffee Room at Dovetail Centre
How Methodist Church Dovetail Centre Surprises Me