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Oswestry's Outdoor Community Lounge/Public Living Room

What I love most about this local community place is how discovered it completely by chance, on the very first day it was running, Saturday 18th March, 2023.

Here's my story.

It was one very chilly morning, I woke up with no plans and to be completely honest, I was feeling in quite a lonely mood, so I thought to myself....I know, I'll meander into town with my Canine Companion Oscar, to get out these four walls to be among people and nature., that will enhance my mood.

I feel it's appropriate to give thanks to Designs in Mind for that inner dialogue, as I've now gained the confidence to do what I'd previously struggled with, leave the house with purpose and want to mingle with others.

I headed for my favourite green space, the gorgeous Cae Glas Park to start with.

My and my boy wonder love to observe the squirrels at play, take a look at the flora and fauna, do a bit of people watching, maybe be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the friendly Robin that frequents around the benchs by the front entrance. Perhaps you are familiar with the little feathered being yourself?

With no sightings of the cheeky Robin that day, the Castle Mound crossed my mind, so me and my trusty boy, headed in that direction.

Once we had climbed up, observed the 360 degree vista at the top ,we thought, ok, people time and headed back down towards the Bailey Head.

This is where I met Kate & Sarah from the MacIntyre Charity in the Public Living Room. This became our relaxed space, where myself and Oscar spent our first time experiencing their outdoor living room. 

I found it had a lovely atmosphere with people supporting people, a really nice vibe to chat with the folk who were helping out and those who had come along to be part of it.

There is seating, board games,colouring in books, pens, folks to chat to and share a laugh with. It was thoroughly enjoyable, I met new folk and felt really welcomed.

Our Oswestry Mayor, Jay Moore had popped in that day too, pictured above.

I was keen to know more on how it might support our members from Designs and how folk who go there may also benefit from joining Designs in Mind if it apoealed to them, so I chatted with Sarah to ask a few questions on how it came about.

Here's what she shared...

"MacIntyre, the charity we work for (Kate and myself) were looking at more ways to support the people ,who already draw on their support, to be even more connected to the local communities that they are a part of.

Making headway with projects that supported this aim was the greater communities project in Warrington.

The appointment of 3 community connectors, alongside around 5 and growing community ambassadors, who are MacIntyre existing staff, that were drawn to pushing forward these initiatives across the country.

Inspired by the Camerados public living room social movement (see link below) Katheryn Yates and the CEO Sarah Burlem shared the idea of the Public Living Room concept,with people that draw on MacIntyre's support becoming Camerados to give back to their local communities. 

Relationships with the founders of the Camerados UK - Yvonne Dawson and Matt Potts supported and advised us with the setting up and running of the Public Living Rooms in Milton Keynes, Wrexham, Bedford and Oswestry".

I asked what it's main aim is and who can benefit from it?

"The main aim was to be more human. Become more connected to our local communities and the people in it.

To give back to the local communities we are a part of (MacIntyre homes and educational settings) but setting up Public Living Rooms, which is a space for people to be, spend time with 'no fixing' or service agenda attached to it.

The Public Living room belongs to the people that use it and spend time there - no leaders or facilitators; everyone takes part in the running of it"

I wondered if Oswestry's is the only one or are other areas involved? If so where?

"MacIntyre have set up Public living rooms in Milton Keynes, Wrexham, Bedford and Oswestry. The one is Oswestry is a weekly fixture - every Saturday at Oswestry market".

I asked Sarah to share a personal story to show how much value these outdoor venues have been, to those who have ventured out to spend time in such inclusive spaces.

"A recent visitor to tell me the things she has done and enjoyed about the PLR’s, is a great feedback story, as she is not someone that MacIntyre Supports, but is someone local that stumbled upon us, who now visits us as a fortnightly fixture in her life.

For me the fact I still do not know what her ‘diagnosis/s’ are at all – all I know is that she has a cat she spoils rotten, is a brilliant networker and great with children, she has a learning disability of some kind, however that is not what I first see. Her attributes and skills go beyond this and that has shone through during her time spent with us at the Public Living Room. At no point did her ‘diagnosis’ even come into it – which has been humbling and eye opening for me as someone that has worked in social care for over 10 years, with that I have to admit that often in the past the person’s name and then their diagnosis/s are the first two things introduced to you about them – not having this in mine and her friendship, that has blossomed has without doubt stopped me ‘over supporting’ in any way".

Here at Designs we love this story, as we too have an ethic of skills and capabilities way beyond someone's diagnosis, which is always respected and not at the forefront of being welcomed into our new referrals.

At the PLR days there are feedback cards available, I"ve shared some comments from that first day, I attended, that folk had anonymously written about their experiences, here's what 5 folk said....

"I found the Community event very welcoming, the Camerados to be very helpful, friendly and a good laugh. I feel the Community event would be very beneficial to anyone who is looking to build new friendships".

"I suffer with Autism and I felt included for the first time"

"This is such a good idea, an opportunity to meet people, chat about anything and have a voice, being part of the community".

"Very welcoming, a good community event, as we laughed, talked and sang songs together. As I suffer with loneliness, this was an excellent way for me to meet new people and make new friendships. I now know that every Saturday I will be able to come and not be judged, sit and talk, play games, read, participate in arts & crafts and be part of the community lounge, which will help me feel more involved in the community".

If your feeling like your at a loose end, need a chat, some company, feel lonely or isolated on Saturday's, it's something I recommend you pop along to. All are welcome, dogs and children too.

It is on the Bailey Head, Oswestry every Saturday from 9am to 4pm. Please not there is no Public Living Room on Saturday 22nd April 2023 due to the inclement weather

Link as mentioned above

There is a lovely video on the of that 1st day

For more information about MacIntyre follow this link


Blog Written & researched by Willow, Member & Social Media Coordinator

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