Lesley Young gives interview to Radio Suffolk-The Friendly Bench

Lyndsey Young of The Friendly Bench CIC speaks to Radio Suffolk’s Lesley Dolphin

When we were told the amazing news that our application for a Friendly Bench had been successful we were thrilled because we know from extensive research and by chatting to local people that a lot of us experience feelings of isolation or loneliness in our day. Add to that, traumas such as bereavement, divorce, drug related issues, mental and physical health problems, being new to the community etc life can be incredibly hard. If we don’t have someone that we can share our inner most thoughts and feelings with it can sometimes seem impossible to cope.

The idea behind The Friendly Bench CIC was the brainchild of Lyndsey Young, a working mum from Leicestershire who experienced first hand feeling lonely and recognised that there would be others in her community feeling a similar way and she decided she could do something about it.

The Friendly Bench is an integrated seating and planted area that is just beautiful. It is fully accessible and a place that anyone can visit and enjoy, perhaps see another friendly face, someone to chat with, even if it’s just to remark on the weather to begin with. Just that physical act of being outside and speaking to another human being can make all the difference to someones day.

Click here and go to 1:22:24 to listen to the interview

The Friendly Bench expands into NW Ipswich to fight loneliness in the community

We are thrilled to announce that our NW Ipswich community is to be awarded a Friendly Bench thanks to National Lottery funding!

The Friendly Bench CIC, a social enterprise which tackles loneliness and social isolation, offered  community groups and voluntary organisations across the country to apply for their own Friendly Bench after successfully securing £240K of National Lottery funding. You may be surprised to learn that this is no ordinary bench, its an active social space with integral planting, where anyone can sit, relax and chat with others.

Each Friendly Bench will also hold a minimum of 12 events each year for the community to enjoy.

Launched in March 2018 by Lyndsey Young, The Friendly Bench CIC was created to tackle loneliness, social isolation and community disconnectedness, by using innovative social space, The Friendly Bench. According to the UK’s Campaign to End Loneliness, there are 1.2 million lonely older people in the UK, and 9 million lonely people in total – increasing the risk of mortality by 26%, with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.

The Friendly Bench is specially designed and built following Disability Discrimination Act guidelines. It’s a safe, easily accessible mini community garden with integrated seating and organic, sensory planting.

The Friendly Benches are situated within communities for people to meet, chat, connect, build friendships and find a sense of belonging in a growing disconnected, lonely world. They’re active social hubs where free activities and events are regularly held to encourage everyone to participate, have fun, feel accepted and validated, and develop a support network.

Each The Friendly Bench is community-led, with volunteers running regular activities and events including intergenerational gardening projects such as; ‘Blokes, a brew and banter’ get togethers, afternoon teas and kerbside concerts and we can’t wait to hear ideas from local residents in NW Ipswich!

The Friendly Bench has the full backing of Sir Alan Duncan, Rachel Reeves MP, co-chair of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness also mentioned The Friendly Bench in her Westminster Hall debate on loneliness. Lyndsey has also recently been awarded a Points of Light Award for The Friendly Bench from, then Prime Minister, Theresa May. The Friendly Bench won Best Social Enterprise Award at the Grantham Journal Business Awards, 2019, and the RCC Award for Sir Alan Duncan former MP for Rutland and Melton

Other areas awarded a Friendly Bench are Bury, Chester, East Rugby, Sheffield and Halesowen, with further locations to follow within the next year.


Launch of the Learning Support Partnership for children with special educational needs









NW Ipswich Big Local Trust is all about development and empowerment for our residents. It’s not always easy and things don’t change quickly, it takes commitment and determination and here is a great example of one residents dreams coming true.

Malakai Pearson came to us 4 years ago with an idea to offer learning support to children and young people in our community (outside of school) who need an extra helping hand due to dyslexia and other special educational needs. This all came about from his own experience of not having someone skilled in dyslexia teaching to help with homework and his family struggling to find the right kind of support for their son. Life wasn’t easy, and made that much harder because there was no one in the area that could really help.

As a young adult, Mal wanted to do something to help the next generation and when he heard about us he got in touch and told us about his experiences and how he wanted to provide a quality service that offers educational support and social activities in a safe place, with a qualified SEN teacher.

Finally, on Monday 16th Sept the Learning Support Partnership (LSP) launches with a taster session.

What is LSP? It’s is a special kind of after school club offering free specialist teaching and support for children aged 7 to 10, and their families. The club will run on a weekly basis on Mondays from 3.30 until 5pm.

There will be 45 minutes specialist teaching in groups of 6 with a qualified teacher plus 45 minutes of play and social time with targeted games and activities to support learning.

We are incredibly proud of you Mal!

Fun Dog Show 2019

By popular request, North West Ipswich Big Local Trust held our second Fun Dog Show at Castle Hill Park on Sunday, 8 September.

Following on from last year’s success, the NWI BLT Events Team, ably assisted by a number of volunteers and Ipswich Borough Council Parks, decided to repeat the show with a slightly different slant.

As well as having a large number of entries into the usual dog show, it was decided to expand the offering and invite organisations who had a more specific use for our four legged friends, showing the great work they do and how specially trained dogs improve the lives of many people who suffer from a variety of needs and disabilities.

We were lucky enough to be joined by guide dogs for the blind and hearing dogs as well as the RSPCA who re home dogs, matching them carefully to new owners.  It was fascinating to speak to the guide and hearing dogs owners and learn how their dogs had transformed their lives. One was a young working family man who was profoundly deaf and had all the electronic gizmos going to improve his and his family’s quality of life.  But when he got his hearing dog his life changed for the better almost overnight.  He had so many wonderful stories about how his dog gave him and his family the independence he hadn’t experienced before.

All these organisations are charities and depend for their existence on donations.  We will divide all the money made at the event between the 3 organisations who took up the offer to attend.

We were lucky enough to have good weather and the judging in the dog show was great fun to watch with all ages showing off their dogs, much to the delight of the crowd.  The winners were presented with rosettes by the experienced judge and it was good to see many young people taking part.

We would like to thank everyone who contributed by way of their time and organisations who donated prizes for the draw etc.

Another very successful event for the team – so what next?  Would you like the Dog Show to become an annual event or if you have any ideas of what you would like to see happen in the NWI BLT area of Whitton, Whitehouse and Castle Hill) please let us know by way of facebook, twitter or the website

Community Garden at Castle Hill Gets a Double Disabled Raised Bed for Wheelchair Users


The North West Ipswich Big Local Trust has taken delivery of a Double Disabled Raised Bed for 2 wheelchair users.

“We are well impressed with the disabled raised bed that we commissioned ActivSheds to make – it is bespoke so we had exactly what we wanted made to suit our wheelchair users. The wood used is very strong with metal underneath to strengthen the top surface. The raised bed is wide enough to have 2 electric wheelchair users underneath it at once side by side. Users can now plant their own seeds & tend to them at their special station having all the hand tools available including small watering cans”

 “ActivSheds have been brilliant” say’s Community Garden Project Manager Janet Vinnicombe ” they have adhered to everything we wanted and given us a couple of extra features that we hadn’t thought of – Becca & Sam our current electric wheelchair users both have a place to put their drinks and their phones away from all the dirt & mess. The build is superb as is the workmanship – the attention to detail and thought that has gone into it from ActivSheds volunteers is fantastic they truly are a very talented bunch.  The bed was made at Maidenhall Allotments where ActivSheds is based they had to dismantle it to transport it and put it back together when they delivered it.

The NWIBLT Community Garden meets every Wednesday & Sunday from 10am – 12 Noon and is based within Castle Hill Allotments between Dales Rd & Ashcroft Rd.

We welcome any new volunteers and visitors whether they have experience or not – the main idea for the garden is to help improve health & well being for our members so they make new friends, learn new skills, enjoy the fresh air and share in the produce.  The gates are locked so volunteers need to be let in. Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer please contact Janet on 07851912765 or Tracey on 07739516384.

Who’s in Charge Parenting Programme May 2019

Whitton Youth Partnership are funding another round of support programmes for local families called Who’s in Charge? Parenting Programme. This free nine week group programme is for parents and carers who have a child aged 8-18 who currently appears to be beyond parental control or who uses violent and abusive behaviour towards them.
If you feel that this is you or you would like to know more, please get in touch with Carole Barker on 07814 378325 or email: carole@whosincharge.co.uk or Ali Cuckow 07710 365988

Whitehouse-Have Your Say


Whitehouse Wanderers, volunteering with Ipswich Community Media, Voist, and Azuko  want to find out what Castle Hill and Whitton Residents have to say about the Whitehouse area.

To get an idea of residents’ opinions we have designed a questionnaire which is being asked to randomly selected residents from all ages and backgrounds.

The results of this survey will be used to decide what the Whitehouse Community needs and what action should be taken.

The questionnaire takes around 30 minutes to complete. We understand your time is precious, and your input is very valuable.

We would therefore like to invite you to come along to St Thomas Church Vicarage, Cromer Road, Ipswich and complete the questionnaire over a cup of tea/coffee and biscuits of course! However, if you are unable to do this, you can fill in the questionnaire as it is*. Please send your responses to whitehousewanderers@gmail.com

All responses are confidential, and while there may be some demographic information on the questionnaire to help us identify any groups that need specific services, your responses are completely anonymous.

Thank you for being part and making Whitehouse a better place to live.

*Whitehouse Perception questionnaire NWI BLT

Community Garden Feb 24th 2019

We had a lovely surprise when we arrived at the Community Garden today: a gift of 3 redcurrant bushes from neighbouring plot holder Joe.

We were chuffed to be able to give Joe a few spare slabs in return.








This is what Joe said about today’s Community Garden session: “Kaiden and I had a brill 4 hours down the allotments today. He enjoyed planting and being able to take them home to his mum.. and obviously the BBQ is always a good treat while working”

While young Kaiden announced it was “the best day ever”!

Rog & Becca sowing the first seeds of the season















Working in partnership with Whitton Youth Partnership

What are we doing to support our young people we hear you ask since Open Mic, Drumming sessions and D2U stopped last year.

We have increased our work and funding with local charity Whitton Youth Partnership (WYP). This way we can ensure that we reach more young people and more varied opportunities are provided, supported by a highly experienced youth worker and his team. Many of you will know Andy Fell from his work over the years in our community through the council but when that funding ceased and youth clubs stopped as a result, Andy returned to working for the community that he knows so well via Whitton Youth Partnership.

Who are Whitton Youth Partnership and where do they operate in our community of NW Ipswich?

Whitton Youth Partnership is a registered charity (no. 1155594), which was launched in 2014 to provide much needed services for socially and economically disadvantaged children & young people living, attending school or hanging out in the Whitton, Whitehouse & the Castle Hill areas of Ipswich, Suffolk.

Our aim is to help children & young people be safe, happy, aspirational, resilient, and able to make positive changes in their own lives and in their communities

WYP have provided some activities that have been funded or part funded by NWIBLT as part of an extended youth work agreement. These were ideas formulated between the Young Persons sub group of NWIBLT based upon what the community tell us & Jim at WYP:

A) Youth Worker: it was agreed to extend our contribution to the youth worker Andy Fell, he is continuing his excellent work with our young people and his contact has been extended to 2020

B) The Who’s in Charge Parenting Programmes: NWIBLT funded the 2018 programme which had 29 families who had been put forward by various agencies, there was a drop off but they had 15 families attending the 8 weekly sessions with great progress being made by the families attending

C)  Single Gender work – work with young men and young women is underway. The Young Men’s creative session being run as part of our Youth Hub work once per week until December, looking at music and photography will now be extended to run further sessions from January. This will link into our single gender work generally and we hope to begin some young women’s work this year as this group is proving more difficult to engage with. One of the great success stories from this is a young man now becoming a trainee youth worker with WYP and he has been instrumental in the success of the Young man’s group. The young woman group is progressing more slowly but more work around this will be done in 2019
D) D2U will hopefully be back up and running soon with a session worker helping Andy Fell facilitate the sessions

E) Duke of Edinburgh award scheme: The scheme in it’s current format had it’s funding from Suffolk County Council withdrawn as a cost cutting measure.  Andy Fell is in negotiations with lead officers from the council on this. WYP have held information sessions for young people and parents looking to be involved in the scheme.

F) Christmas Craft and play session was held over the festive period with funding from NWIBLT
Other WYP work

1) Junior Youth Club. This free club runs every Tuesday from 3.30p.m. and has restarted for the spring term. It will run now for the rest of the year.

2) Our free Movie Club continues to run one Saturday per month.

3) Holiday play activity days – provided free of charge. Our Christmas activity day was held on 20th December 2018, this was craft orientated with Christmas items being made as well the usual games being played. Again a great time was held by all, with a production line set up by the young people, to provide all who sat down for a hot meal with a homemade Christmas cracker. Again it was 36 young people actively engaged in a warm and safe environment with a hot meal provided all free of charge.

4) As part of our Youth Hub work plans are proceeding our senior youth club for those over 13 later this year

6) Detached youth work has been undertaken in response to the drugs/knife issues in the town plus work around the Castle Court/Garrick Way area where considerable anti-social behaviour has occurred. 18 sessions of 3 hrs each were worked (54 hrs in total). This resulted in 102 contacts with children / young people – contact is a meaningful conversation. There were also 30 non-contact – no meaningful conversation. 132 contacts in total with 48 individual young people of which there were 16 consistent – seen more than three times. Help, advice and signposting were given and the young people listened to. Some of the work outlined above will hopefully attract some of these young people to engage further.

World War One Exhibition and “Experience Remembrance “event for schools

This event was held in November over four days plus two services over the weekend of 10/11th November. Happy to report that it was a very successful week of events with six local schools taking part along with various uniformed organisations in the “Experience Remembrance” event, attendance at a special service on the Thursday on Christchurch Park, or in Whitton Churchyard. Hundreds of local people also visited the exhibition which received very good feedback with people still commenting on it.

NWIBLT will also soon have Learning Support sessions operating by Mal Pearson and a team of specialists for children needed that little bit extra support to thrive.