Two firsts for Places of Welcome

Two firsts as Stoke City FC and Lichfield Garrick Theatre join the national Places of Welcome network

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Stoke City Football Club is the first professional football club in the country to join the Places of Welcome network, and The Lichfield Garrick the first theatre to do so, both opening up their famous premises every week for people to feel safe to connect, belong and contribute.

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They become the latest venues to join a 600-strong network of Places of Welcome, venues that open their doors to provide a space where once a week anyone can drop in for a friendly face, refreshments and a conversation if and when they need it.

Places of Welcome is a scheme pioneered by local organisers who know their communities’ needs best. The Diocese of Lichfield supports venues in its area, and the national network is supported by Church Urban Fund.

Yasmin attends Stoke Social, the Place of Welcome hosted by Stoke City FC, with her grandmother Sandra, who has dementia. She said: My Nan has made friends and this place has helped her with talking and socialising more. Especially since COVID, she stopped socialising and was feeling lonely. I think this has really made a difference.”

Naomi Parton, Active Through Football Project Manager at Stoke City Football Club, said: “For us, Stoke Social is a fantastic way to reach out to our community and build a sense of belonging with Stoke City. Stoke Social is a safe and inclusive space where we welcome individuals from a range of backgrounds, ages and abilities to the stadium for activities and fun. Being the first football club to be granted ‘Place of Welcome’ status is incredibly important to us; encouraging individuals to connect, belong and contribute is exactly what Stoke Social is all about and we feel privileged to be part of the network.”

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Sylvia and Jean attended the Place of Welcome Lichfield Garrick launch and regularly pop into the Green Room Cafe there to join in on Friday mornings. Sylvia said: “There are some people we know, some people we don't know. We find the people here very, very friendly.” Jean added: “You get to know people, don't you, coming here. It's lovely.”

Daniel Buckroyd, Chief Executive and Artistic Director at Lichfield Garrick Theatre said: “The thread that runs through everything we do is about creating together, and opportunities for people to come together. A lot of that happens through creative programmes but it can also happen through a cup of coffee, or board game. Places of Welcome seemed like a great initiative and us linking up with it seemed like a way of us helping signpost that we're open and welcoming. Our being part of the Places of Welcome initiative is part of a longer-term ambition to get this place open and active and inclusive and welcoming.”

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Julie Jones, Chief Executive of the Diocese of Lichfield, said: “We are delighted to be breaking new ground in welcoming a professional football club and a theatre to our network of Places of Welcome. The Places of Welcome initiative is an integral part of work to strengthen communities across the diocese. We wish to continue developing our Places of Welcome network as part of our wider missional focus.”

Elizabeth Carnelley, Director of Partnerships at CUF, said: “Places of Welcome provide places where, every week through the year, local people can connect, belong and contribute, alongside a cuppa and a chat. We all need to feel welcome and make connections to people where we live. We already have libraries, faith buildings and community centres, so a theatre and football club are a great addition.”

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