Operating from a base in Craigshill, but open to people from all around West Lothian and beyond (“we wouldn’t be good neighbours if we turned anyone away”) the Craigshill Good Neighbour Network is a social club for all.
A local charity that has been running for an incredible 36 years, it exists to reduce social isolation and is described as a lifeline by many of its members. A busy programme of clubs for all interests is supplemented by monthly special events, celebrations and trips, and there is capacity for more people of all ages to join in.
“We don’t want anyone to be sitting around at home feeling isolated,” explains Activities Co-ordinator Susan. “There is something for everyone here, always a warm welcome.”
Friendships have been formed, new skills learned, boredom staved off and a host of other benefits that members attribute to Craigshill Good Neighbour Network.
“We don’t want anyone to be sitting around at home feeling isolated”
The spacious and buzzing centre premises exudes a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. The day I was there to gather information for this feature, there were volunteers getting ready to make some baby gift baskets, people arriving for a cuppa before their singing club, and the keyboard player setting up. “This room is sometimes a dance floor, sometimes a cafe, sometimes a games room” says Susan, “whatever we need it to be. Volunteers set up and decorate depending on what we’ve got going on.”
The activity groups hosted at the neighbourhood centre in Craigshill include various craft, knitting and sewing clubs, carpet bowls, singing, exercise, games, a book club and a Men’s Group on a Friday which includes games, lunch and a quiz. The Lunch Club, weekly on a Tuesday, is a three course lunch with different activities or entertainment, and has on average 30 people in attendance. Local school children visit to celebrate special days, including St Patrick's, St Andrew's and Burns. Community events such as Craigshill Remembers, Family Games Day, Fayres, Daytime Discos, Ladies Evenings and tea parties all bring the wider community together. Over the summer, the club organises day trips out and about. Friendly Forces, a group for veterans who live in the West Lothian area, also meet at CGNN and welcome other veterans to join them.
The whole programme is run by a small number of staff funded by the charity’s financial supporters, and, crucially, an army of local volunteers. More volunteers are always welcome, and they get as much out it as members do! One volunteer says: “I absolutely love coming to CGNN and feel it’s my safe space,” and another: “It’s really helped me feel a sense of purpose again and my confidence is growing more and more every day.”
The cost to attend is just £2.00 for most of the clubs, and £5.50 for the Lunch Club, which includes a three course meal. Prices are kept low in order to be accessible for as many as possible - and friendly banter is included for free in all activities!
There is also a community shop within the centre, open from 10am to 2pm Monday to Thursday. It is stocked with a range of gift items, many of which are craft creations made by volunteers, as well as donations from within the community so you can buy beautiful gifts at very competitive prices and the proceeds go to supporting CGNN; win-win.
If you or someone you know is sitting around at home feeling at a loose end and a bit isolated, come along to the CGNN centre and join in one of their many weekly clubs. The first class for all clubs (except the Lunch Club) is free. If you want to try an activity you can just turn up, or contact CGNN for a visit first to come and see what they are all about.
For more information:
Visit: 2 Almondbank (the old library building) The Mall, Livingston, EH54 5EJ
Call: 01506 442093
Activities Co-ordinator firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer Co-ordinator email@example.com
Article published in Konect March 2020
Author: Helen-Jane Shearer