While continuing to encourage more new tea party groups across the UK, Re-engage is also celebrating the fact that many of our social gatherings have been taking place for a quarter of a century – and in some cases even longer.

These two ends of the spectrum are highlighted by the development of a new group in Hale, and Inverness 1 marking its 25th anniversary with a special gathering on June 11th.


The Hale tea party group has just been started by Elaine Gordon who was inspired after entertaining a friend and her 98-year-old mother.

“It was just an arrangement where I invited them both for a sandwich and cake but it meant so much to them,” said Elaine, a former counsellor. “So when I heard about Re-engage I thought I’d like to do it more long term and for more people.

“My parents were divorced and both lonely when they got older and although I visited them and took them out I never quite understood their loneliness. But I do now. And that’s why I believe it’s so important to do what we can to help people in that situation.”

Elaine, who is a Manchester magistrate specialising in a broad range of child welfare issues, decided to become a tea party coordinator last December and since then has built up an impressive list of hosts and drivers and secured the Jubilee Community Centre in Bowdon as a regular venue. The first tea party is being held on June 12th.

“It has a room that can accommodate 20 people, which is ideal for us,” continued Elaine. “On each occasion there will be three hosts providing the cakes and tea and of course the drivers will be there.

“I’ve been lucky because my husband Les has volunteered, as have several others including a retired surgeon, two solicitors and a former priest. I want this to be a collaborative group so it can be a community for the drivers and hosts as well as the guests. And I’ve said to them that even if they are not on the duty rota they are welcome to come along for a cup of tea and a chat.

“Maybe as the group develops we can invite people in to give short talks. One lady who plays the guitar and sings has offered to come along to give a brief interlude.

“Setting-up the group has been interesting. I am passionate about animals and help with related charities, so this is something completely different for me.

“I’m looking forward to the first tea party, with a little trepidation, but also knowing just how important it is to help older people who are feeling lonely.”

Inverness 1

Ann Johnston joined the Inverness 1 group when it started in 1998, first as a host and then in 2010 as coordinator. She is arranging a special 25th anniversary celebration tea party at Culloden Baptist Church (in June) and has invited around 20 former and current hosts, drivers and guests. Ann also plans to use the occasion to celebrate the 100th birthday of guest Jean Wallace. Four of the original hosts are still involved with the group.

In 2008, the group celebrated its tenth anniversary with a special meal at a local hotel and the delighted older people were driven to and from the venue in a bright pink stretch limousine.

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