New group in Bognor Regis dedicated to fighting social isolation

Coming out of Covid can be tough, especially for people who are already lonely, but a new group in Bognor Regis is trying to make ‘going out a bit more friendly’.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 12:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 2:13 pm

Based out of the Makerspace on Longford Road, the Bognor Regis Tea and Chat group meets on a Friday every two weeks for tea, coffee and a chat.

The group meets from 10.30 to 12.30 and guests are free to choose from a wide selection of books, puzzles, and board games to keep them entertained. Hot drinks and biscuits are available but, at the low price of 50p each, there’s no pressure to buy them. The group isn’t about making a profit, it’s about fighting social isolation and battling loneliness.

“We just recognised that, especially coming out of Covid, there was a need for somewhere people could go. I mean, we have lovely cafes, we have lovely restaurants. But going on your own is quite tricky and we just wanted to create somewhere where people knew there would be somebody to chat to,” said Sarah Fisher, 47, who started the group with best friend Samantha Tweedy earlier this year.

Sarah Fisher (right) and Darren Higginson, volunteer with Making Theatre Gaining Skills
Sarah Fisher (right) and Darren Higginson, volunteer with Making Theatre Gaining Skills

“When you go to a normal restaurant, there’s this worry that the staff are waiting to use your table. Whereas here, you’ve got two hours and you know you’ve got two hours. You don’t have to buy more than one drink if you don’t want to- you can just sit and have a chat.”

Passionate about the community, the pair fund the Bognor Regis Tea and Chat group with their own money, unsupported by sponsorship grants from larger organisations. It’s a risk, but one Ms Fisher hopes will eventually pay off: “It’s all coming out of our pockets at the moment,” she said “but getting funding is quite difficult and we wanted to start it sooner rather than later. If you start it and prove there’s a need for it, you’re more likely to be able to apply for funding later down the line.”

To that end, they have been consistently surprised by the support and generosity of the community they support. “We’ve been very lucky. Our poster was designed by Hayden Tweedy graphic design free of charge, Alakazam gave us puzzles and things like that. Mad about Dogs in Birdham helped out. Literally almost everyone I know has chipped something in.”

It’s still early days for the group and numbers are still growing, but Ms Fisher and Mrs Tweedy are confident in the strength of the format and the necessity of the service. ”It will grow. I think it’s something that people will tell other people about, but we’re not really worried about having hordes of people through the door. If we get one person that needs a friend and we help, then our job is done in those two hours. It’s not about making money or providing a service. It’s about being friendly and really caring about other people.”

To find out more about the Bognor Regis Tea and Chat group, like and follow its Facebook page.