A new café club to combat the impact on confidence that can come with sight loss is to start at the Mazzei Café in the heart of Blackpool in May.
The Mazzei Café is the perfect setting for the sixth café club run by N-Vision, the Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Society for the Blind.
It is centrally located, near bus stops, in an iconic building – the Winter Gardens.
N-Vision’s new Blackpool café club base will join a network of social satellites of a society, which started in the resort itself, in 1910.
N-Vision covers all three local boroughs, and has café clubs in Kirkham, Fleetwood, Cleveleys, St Annes and Poulton.
The clubs were set up under the Big Lottery funded VIPS – Visually Impaired Personalisation Support – to reduce social isolation.
“We all need community, friends, support,” says Phil Richardson, VIPS project manager.
“The café clubs reach out to clients and encourage them to come out and meet people in a pleasant environment, compare notes, ask us questions.
“It’s a far cry from the draughty church halls, paper cups and lukewarm tea I remember from other charities.
“People chat, they open up on what’s happening in their lives or what’s troubling them.
“For us, it’s a great way of catching up and seeing if anything is bothering them .
“We couldn’t ask for a more central base than the Mazzei Café and it’s been well worth the wait to get just the right location. For once the term iconic is justified.”
At St Annes, at the Pavilion Café at Ashton Gardens, Phil and volunteer Janet Wignall and society regulars, such as Jean Wild, make first timers feel at home.
Barbara Mackenzie has come to find out how to deal with the impact of sight loss upon the quality of life of her 101-year-old mother – an avid reader and crossword enthusiast – and ventures some tips herself, such as the use of Alexa at home as a voice-enabled digital home assistant.
“My mum, who lives with us now, can just ask Alexa to call me. We’re lucky we have so much technology today.”
At the Cleveleys club – held at the Tram Way pub – blind veteran George, in his 90s, has braved high winds and heavy rain along with busy roads and a hair raising roundabout.
George, a member of Blind Veterans, is a regular on-site at N-Vision’s monthly social and activities groups, too.
“It’s important to get out.”
Jo, in her 40s, lost her sight to diabetic retinopathy.
“I miss driving but I have a bus pass and I did four rail connections in summer. I don’t let it limit me. ”
Jo was taken under Eve Osborne’s wing when she first visited the café club; the pair have become great friends.
Eve has retinitis pigmentosa, which causes loss of peripheral vision.
“The club is great for getting you out,” adds Eve.
“It’s always worth the effort. You can sit at home and let life go by or be part of it.”
Former Fleetwood Nautical College lecturer William Morris attends with his off-duty guide dog Todd.
He said: “This place is a great help. It’s nice to mix and Todd likes people, too.”
The start date for the Blackpool café club will be confirmed soon.