Bamber Bridge businessman running friendship group at Bamber Bridge diner help combat loneliness and mental illness

A Bamber Bridge businessman has set up a new social group to help tackle mental illness.

By Laura.longworth
Saturday, 16th April 2022, 12:30 pm
Updated Saturday, 16th April 2022, 8:59 pm

Simon Harkin, who co-runs BlindsZarus, is the brains behind Friendship Talking Tables, which take place at Brooklyn's American Diner in Station Road on Tuesdays from 1 - 3pm and Fridays from 11am - 1pm.

Simon hopes the group will help to bring like-minded people together. The 51-year-old says it was initially aimed at older people but is now open to all ages.

He said: “I remember growing up around here, there was a lot of community spirit but some of it’s gone. The way I look at it is, the older people keep the community spirit going but they don’t know anybody. They go shopping and then close the door behind them. It’s bad for their mental health. We need to get them together and give them a reason to get up in the morning.”

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Simon Harkin hosts a game of bingo at the Friendship Talking Tables group in Bamber Bridge. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Simon first recognised the need for the group while fitting window blinds for customers who lived alone.

“I’d go round measuring homes for blinds and some old dear would talk to death and I realised they were missing somebody to spend time with. Sometimes people book us so that they have someone coming to their house who they can talk to. I’d do my job and then they would ask if I wanted a brew. They want you to stay longer.”

That’s when he decided to set up a group where people could have a brew, natter and food, and play bingo and board games. He also hopes to run talks on topics like crafts or financial advice, and organise local day trips, depending on numbers.

When he began promoting the idea on Facebook, many younger people who had recently moved to the area or were looking to meet new friends reached out to him and said they would love to attend something similar.

Andy Bland, owner of Brooklyn's, with BlindZarus businessman Simon Harkin at the Friendship Talking Tables event. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“Quite a few people said it was a brilliant idea and wished there was something for them. They said, ‘Why can’t we come?’

“And I thought, ‘Why can’t they?’”

Simon hopes the group will help to “lift the area a bit”, adding: “Even if it only helps a handful of people, then it’s worth it.”

For more information, search for BlindsZarus on Facebook.

Visitors to Friendship Talking Tables talk, play bingo and other games as well as eating food and drinking. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
Simon Harkin hosts a game of bingo at the Friendship Talking Tables group in Bamber Bridge. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard