In a bid to combat loneliness, a year ago this month Lorna Davison started the West End Teapots, a group that is offering its members a weekly opportunity to socialise.

Lorna, who lives in the West End of Enniskillen and is chairwoman of the West End Community Partnership, came up with the idea of starting the group after the issue of loneliness kept being raised at her local Neighbourhood Renewal meetings.

She said: “About two years ago at the Neighbourhood Renewal meetings they had been talking about loneliness and it kept coming up every meeting for about six or nine months approximately, then one day I just suddenly thought, ‘I could actually run a group’.”

Lorna took her idea back to the Neighbourhood Renewal Co-ordinator who thought that starting a group to help banish loneliness was a great plan.

“At the time, Jo Cox the MP in England had been murdered and she was trying to set up groups for people who were lonely and that’s really what sparked it, I reckoned I could do something as well,” explained Lorna.

She continued: “So we set up the group a year ago on October 22. The first day we started we didn’t really know what was going to happen or how many people would turn up but we advertised it as the ‘West End Teapots.’ With that we just set up some games to play and we finished off with a cream tea, hence the ‘Teapots’.”

On the first day, 12 people came along to the group and now, a year later, there are 35 members.

“It is actually open to any age group but at the moment we’re finding that it is people over 60 that are coming,” said Lorna, adding that the group is cross-community and their membership includes men and women.

Talking about the activities the group members enjoy, Lorna said: “We start every session with a half hour of bocca and they all enjoy playing that. Then they go back to the tables and we play boardgames, mind games, quizzes anything to keep the old grey matter at bay.”

The group also offers pilates, armchair exercises, crochet, crafts, painting, dancing and many other sociable activities.

The West End Teapots meet on a Monday from 2pm to 4pm at the West End Community Centre, Enniskillen. “It’s in a block of six weeks so we’d run for six weeks then have a week or two off and then back again for another six weeks,” explained Lorna.

After a short break, the group will meet again on Monday, November 4 for a tea dance in celebration of their first anniversary.

When asked if the members have found the group beneficial, Lorna said: “Definitely, an awful lot of them have said that during the summer holidays they missed it, they wished that it went on during the summer.”

She continued: “Some of them, you can see mentally how it has changed them. You can see that their spirits have been lifted by it.

“Quite a lot of them would come very regularly.”

Bernadette Whitley, a member of West End Teapots and assistant chairperson of West End Community Partnership, added: “A lot of the other members have said to me that they do look forward to coming and how much they enjoy it and they are glad that it has started.”

The group have received funding from the International Fund for Ireland, and have recently been given funding by the Enniskillen Rotary Club.

“We are very grateful for all of this,” said Lorna.

When asked what she hopes for the future of the group Lorna said that she would like for it to continue to grow.

“I have been to a number of doctors’ surgeries here and spoken to the practice manager for social prescribing.

“If people are lonely or down, it’s just something to get them out into the community and mixing again,” said Lorna.

“It’s a good alternative to tablets,” Bernadette added.