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Community centres: a perfect solution to social isolation in West Leeds?

WINTER is often a time of togetherness – but this is not true for everyone. New Wortley, Bramley, Farnley and Swinnow all have one thing in common – they have community centres and can help tackle feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Community reporter Michelle Corns reports on this significant issue.

Autumn has arrived and as the nights draw in and days grow shorter, thoughts turn to the winter months. Once verdant canopies have morphed into shades of russet and gold. Leaves crunch underfoot as we walk, bushes are ripe with berries and vermillion streaks cross the sky at sunset.

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For some, the colder seasons herald fun events and celebrations – Hallowee’n, bonfire night and Christmas. 

Winter is a time of cosy nights by the fire, mulled wine, and mince pies. But for the many people who suffer from loneliness and social isolation however – it can be a time of misery. 

Social isolation can occur when someone is lacking friends or a network of support or social contacts. 

There are many reasons why people may be lonely. They may suffer from depression or anxiety – making it more difficult to go out and engage in social situations. They may have suffered a bereavement or relationship breakup. 

They may suffer from social anxiety and find it difficult to establish friendships. They may have an illness or disability that limits their ability to join in social activities. 

Hallowe’en fun at Bramley Community Centre. Photo: Sarah Cullingworth

Traditionally, this has long been considered to mostly affect the elderly, however, statistics suggest that it is actually young people aged 16-24, who are mostly affected by loneliness,      according to The Marmalade Trust.  

The past few years have not been kind in winter. We’ve had the pandemic and people were forced to be apart from friends and family.

For most of us, that ended when the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and people have been able to return to socialising, but this is not the case for everyone. 

For those people who are isolated, with little support, the next few months may feel like a bleak prospect. 

This is when it’s important to remember that West Leeds is blessed with many community centres and organisations that can help people who are feeling isolated and lonely. 

There are community centres in Bramley, Farnley, Swinnow, Lower Wortley and New Wortley. Most of them have regular activities for all ages. 

The staff and volunteers are trained and experienced in encouraging participation and community engagement. They are not just for youth clubs and craft groups; they are community spaces that welcome everyone. 

Community centres can be a wonderful place to meet other people in your neighbourhood, make new friends and even develop a new skill or hobby,

Residents of Armley and New Wortley have access to New Wortley Community Centre, which hosts a café and charity shop as well as laundry, advice services and activities for all ages and a wellbeing centre. They put on many community fayres and events and can also provide transport. 

Lots on at Swinnow Community c Centre

A little further away, residents of Swinnow and Pudsey are very fortunate to have Swinnow Community Centre. 

This centre is run entirely by a team of dedicated volunteers. They have a food bank, give food parcels and hampers to local families, children and elderly and have activities for all ages. 

Slightly different community spaces exist at Pudsey Wellbeing Centre, off Robin Lane, and Pudsey House.

Centre manager Yvonne prides herself on the centre being a place where everyone is welcome for a cuppa. 

“So many people are still struggling,” says Yvonne. “They have been cut off so long that they feel like they are on their own… some even struggling with shopping, medical advice etc. It’s so wrong…”

Bramley has community centres on Waterloo Lane, the Fairfield estate and the Broadleas. Not forgetting Bramley Lawn!

It can be hard making that initial contact or finding the courage to get out of your comfort zone to approach one of these organisations, but remember that the staff and volunteers are there to help you. 

Many of them are on Facebook and you can send them a message, just reach out and find out what’s on offer. 

You could make new friends, find a new hobby, or even become a volunteer. 

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