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Something for all in Grantham to help combat loneliness

Column by Courtney Finn, chairman of Grantham Civic Society

There is much talk today about how lonely many people are, and of all ages.

It seems lonely people have few friends and either cannot go out much or don’t choose to.

Courtney Finn, chairman of Grantham Civic Society. (4110352)
Courtney Finn, chairman of Grantham Civic Society. (4110352)

Older people living alone seem to be the loneliest. Families become dispersed and loved ones die.

How do you guard against loneliness? The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said that one in seven people (about 7.4 million adults) had felt very lonely during the lockdown and most of these were younger people between 16 and 30.

Before lockdown, some 2.6 million amongst all age groups experienced chronic loneliness. Most people have neighbours but not all have much contact, and some choose not to, and yet good neighbours can be a lifeline when help and friendly contact is needed.

Many people have interests and hobbies that cause them to join clubs and societies. For some years the Journal has published Grantham Life – a comprehensive directory of services, organisations and clubs.

Many years ago my sixth form children voted Grantham the most boring town in the country and we gained a reputation from this, being reported by Terry Wogan on BBC Radio.

I was asked to do a talk entitled ‘Grantham’s not boring’ and have since repeated this many times to clubs and societies over the years.

The 23-page Journal booklet was my guide then and now.

The list begins with 40 support groups as diverse as Mencap, Homestart, the Talking Newspaper and the Wheelie Cool Club. We have all the churches listed in the town and villages.

Each week the Journal publishes the details of services and other local activities. There is a page devoted to clubs and societies under the heading Social, followed by Community Service from Probus, Lions, Inner Wheel and Rotary and others. The Women’s Institutes are listed, plus young people’s groups and regimental associations.

We have groups for animals, the arts and crafts, board and table games – Scrabble, bridge, cribbage and chess.

There are groups which support conservation and the environment including the National Trust and our very own Woodland Trust – headquartered in Grantham.

You can become knowledgeable about family history and Grantham local history, plus Grantham archaeology.

Our fascination with the old buildings and past events in the town is reported each week in the Journal in Memory Lane, Looking Back and in Ruth Crook’s articles showing photos of ‘Then & Now’.

The Civic Society Facebook page has over 1,100 members who write about the buildings and personalities of the town and the memories these inspire.

The booklet goes on to describe 17 charities and two pages of sport and fitness related clubs and groups including judo, netball, karate and pilates. The Guides and Scouts groups are all listed as well. Grantham Business Club and Grantham Women in Business are described. Music, drama and dance is also covered.

There seems something for everybody and if it is not covered you can be sure someone will start a new group. So how to be lonely in a town buzzing with activities and in normal times with a welcoming public library, performing arts centre and museum?

In the latest Art’s Society magazine I read that “engaging in the arts reduces our risk across our lives of developing depression, chronic pain, cognitive decline or frailty”. But none of this is much good unless you make an effort to join in by coming together with others in clubs and societies.

To share interests it makes sense to have some first. Sitting and watching the TV at home all the time does not develop interests where you can interact with others. The internet and the web can, however, extend your interest and knowledge and is a powerful resource against loneliness.

Sometimes we read letters in the Journal in which people complain about how awful our town is in some respect or other. Can I please speak up for our town with its wonderful riverside and parkland, kept litter free by the volunteer heroes of RiverCare and helped by our district council with new facilities and resources in Wyndham Park? We have St Wulfram’s Church in its historic area.

All over the town you can read our Civic Society blue plaques which reveal the stories of Grantham people and visitors.

On my lockdown walks I have taken to carrying my litter picker and collect a bag of litter in an hour’s walk just from the roadside and verges. An SKDC lorry stopped and was so impressed they gave my wife a second litter picker to keep up the good work. You could do this as well to help keep streets tidier when walking around the town or your village.

A regular chore is to take out the old till receipts from the supermarket trolley to throw in the bin. Why must you leave your bill in the trolley when you put your shopping in the car? It is just part of the litter culture that we can all do something about in just a small way to improve our town.

Some of the shop landlords could help by providing more litter bins in their car parks in London Road, for example, and stores could always site a bin outside their front doors and empty it regularly.

I do recall a day’s sojourn on St Peter’s Hill when we were doing an archaeology investigation. I litter-picked 350 cigarette ends from one area near the benches. Could smokers learn to be tidier and could SKDC aim their cameras more accurately so that the litter bugs could be caught and shamed? It is reported that 122 tonnes of cigarette-related litter are dropped every day in this country and we certainly have our share in and around Grantham.

If you are looking for new interests and friends you would obviously expect me to recommend Grantham Civic Society. Have a look at www.granthamcivicsociety.co.uk or seek out our Facebook page.

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