If you’ve ever had feelings of loneliness you’ll know how isolating and miserable it feels. And the dark winter months can make those feelings worse. Wouldn’t it be great if there was somewhere people could go to connect and socialise in a friendly and welcoming environment. Step in LilyAnne’s Coffee Bar. Based on Victoria Road in the centre of town, LilyAnne’s offers so much more than just coffee.
What made you start this kind of community work?
We are a coffee bar that works to support the community while serving nice coffee. We are a not for profit coffee shop and we use all of our profits to support our community with the main aim of reducing the feelings of social isolation and loneliness while creating companionship. LilyAnne’s Coffee Bar, isn’t a mental health cafe and we don’t believe in stigmas or labels.
We wanted to create a coffee shop that offered a lot more than just a coffee. One that offered a lot of invisible good that supported our community. We identified a need for more support in the Hartlepool area and wanted to help increase that for our local community in a non-traditional environment with a relaxed atmosphere.
How important is it to support your local community?
Before the impact of COVID, we had already identified that there were a lot of people struggling
simply because they experienced lonelinesses. We wanted to build a support network in Hartlepool, whereby people who were experiencing loneliness could come together to make friends and find companionship.
Loneliness is something we will all experience at some stage in our day, week or month. It could be during a bus journey, while out shopping or because in a month you see no one other than your own reflection in the mirror. It’s normal for us to feel this way when we are alone but creating human connections and contacts, creating a support network and a group of people who enjoy coffee and involve themselves within groups and activities can ease these feelings and develop friendships along the way.
The most effective way to reduce feelings of loneliness is by putting people together. In a coffee shop you can feel at your most isolated if you come in on your own. But if you spark a conversation with the people serving you or the person sat at another table on their own, you can feel at your most connected. Suddenly, when you’re in a group and talking with other people, you don’t feel those lonely feelings.
What is your favourite thing about running this kind of business?
Seeing someone who has come into the coffee shop simply for a coffee who is really ready to end everything, knowing that the conversations and support we can offer has turned their life around and meant they are still here because of the support and network they suddenly have behind them, knowing they suddenly have some friendly faces to support them, as well as our network of partners across Hartlepool that can continue to support them.
Such as the relationships we have with Hartlepool social prescribers and Let’s Connect, that really means we can deliver as partners, life changing support when people are at their lowest point, by putting in place structured support and counselling to help them understand and manage those feelings, reach the root cause to begin to reduce and manage those feelings, changing them from poor mental health to a state of good mental health. Seeing the difference in these people really makes us smile and allows us to see that we are really making a difference in the work we are doing to support the people of Hartlepool.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
In five years time we are hoping we can continue to support the people of Hartlepool through our various community partnerships and projects, with the simple aim of reducing feelings of loneliness and creating companionship.
We also hope to carry on with some of our leading projects such as the GP Social Prescribing Scheme, whereby we socially prescribe our coffee within local GP surgeries to further support those who are suffering loneliness and are seeking help and support from their GPs.
We provide a place to go, a place that offers a friendly smile and has a network of support in place. This ensures we can use a partnership approach to support the people of Hartlepool when they need us, at that time in crisis when they cannot get appointments there and then for mental health support. On average there are four thousand people per month waiting to be seen by professional services in Hartlepool. If we can ease and bridge that gap, we can really make a difference during the time they are waiting for that support.
What an amazing local business to have on our doorstep. LilyAnne’s have community at their hearts and we are proud of the work they are doing within our town.