Community focus: Fears ‘lifeline’ coffee morning on Sheffield estate could be scrapped

Community is a hard word to define.

Tuesday, 19th March 2019, 2:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 4:01 pm
The coffee morning at Carpenter Gardens, Intake.
The coffee morning at Carpenter Gardens, Intake.

Most of us have an understanding of what it means but its true meaning is often lost through its ubiquity.

It is used far too often and while it may be hard to explain through a form of words, there can’t be many better examples of community in action than in Carpenter Gardens, Intake, every Tuesday and Friday.

In the community centre, tucked away just off Hollybank Road and Normanton Hill, it is coffee morning time.

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The coffee morning at Carpenter Gardens, Intake.

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Around 20 people are in the centre enjoying a brew and a biscuit – but, perhaps more importantly, they are also enjoying company and a chat.

Carpenter Gardens is made up mainly of flats and bungalows on a stretch of land between Normanton Hill and Hollybank Avenue.

But doubt has been cast over the future of the sessions after organisers were told they would soon have to start paying a charge of £26 per coffee morning to use the community centre.

It’s certainly the talking point amongst those at the coffee morning as they enjoy a sip of tea before the bingo gets underway.

June Willis, aged 80, who lives on Carpenter Gardens, has been attending the mornings twice a week for at least nine years.

She said the sessions were ‘very important’ to those who live on the estate and attend.

June said: “It gives you something to look forward to. You get up in a morning and it gives you something to get dressed up for.

"There isn’t really anything else around here and this has made a real difference to our lives.”

The levels of tea being drunk are pretty much on par with the number of laugh out loud moments in this close-knit group.

Joyce Turner, aged 75, who also lives on the estate, said she wouldn’t go out of the house if it wasn’t for the coffee morning.

She said: “It’s an absolute lifeline – it's the people, the chat and the camaraderie, the coffee mornings are so important.

“I can sum it up in one sentence – You can go to see a doctor and they will give you a pill which might make you better, but this does so much more than a pill.

“Nobody here is a medical professional but it’s what it does to your wellbeing."

As we talk, raffle tickets are being sold and yet more countless cups of tea are dished out.

Joyce added: “The coffee mornings are brilliant – there is a big sense of community. If anybody is not well, we are on the phone or knocking on their door to make sure everyone is alright.”

Anita Holmes, who has lived on the estate for 14 years, said she loved her home and her neighbours.

Anita, aged 78, said: “If you live on your own and don’t go out you don’t really meet anybody.

“But it’s very nice on here. It’s quiet but since I started coming to the coffee morning I know everyone and everyone looks out for each other and that’s what community is about.

“It would be a great loss if it meant we couldn't carry on.”

Also at the coffee morning, with her raffle tickets and lucky dip numbers laid out in front of her, was Maisie Baker.

Maisie, aged 80, commutes from her home in Beighton every Tuesday and Friday, to the community centre to join in the fun.

She said: “Whenever I go the doctors or have to book an appointment, I always tell them I can do any day except Tuesday or Friday.

“I look forward to it every week and it’s just great to be among friends.”

The group, who also take around three day trips a year, could be forced to scrap the coffee mornings or impose a charge to attend.

Former landlady and coffee morning organiser Sue, who did not want her surname using, said she set up the sessions two years ago.

She said the group had been told it would have to start paying Sheffield Council, who own the community centre, £26 per session.

Sue said: “My husband sweeps the streets and goes around to talk to people and we realised there were people who didn’t even know their next door neighbour.

“I think the sessions are very important because they have all got together and made friends. I just don’t want them to not have it to come to.

“Loneliness is awful and a lot of people don’t understand it.”

Sheffield Council did not respond to the Star’s request for a comment.