The former M&S store in DORCHESTER is to adopt a new use – a walk-in ‘lounge’.
It will be officially opened on Saturday, June 11 and marked by the roll of a piano on South Street, the instrument donated by the United Church.
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The idea is to have an informal place where people come to talk, whether they are alone, need help, have something to offer their fellow citizens.
It will work in conjunction with other projects that are also taking place in the old store.
The Living Room concept now works all over the world – in workplaces, hospitals, abandoned properties or in schools and universities. The Dorchester center will be the first in Dorset.
The Living Rooms come from Matt Potts, who originally created “Crisis at Christmas” and who recently spoke about his work with an organization he founded called Camerados at a health event in Dorchester in early May.
His work is based on the fact that most people seem to have been happiest either with another person or when they were doing something useful, either at work or in voluntary or community projects.
The basic idea is that you bring people together, however different they may be, things happen and changes are made for the good, without the need for ‘leadership’ or even a theme.
Among the principles are: “It’s good to mingle with people you don’t normally hang out with. The underlying grain of humanity is kindness and “It’s OK to be dumb. Humor and lightness get things done. It greases the wheels of engagement in others.
Taking the idea back to Dorchester is the Dorset Carers Hub, which is based in the former M&S store.
Previous health event co-organizer Paul Wallis said: “There was overwhelming support for a public lounge, a drop-in centre, a safe space, where there was no pressure, where people of all kinds and backgrounds can feel comfortable, where people have time to talk and time to listen.
Local people are encouraged to visit on the day with a range of other community organizations represented on June 11 and a small number of sales stalls available to help support the project financially. Donations can be dropped off at the Old South Street Shop.
The May 4th ‘Help: Your Health, Your Community’ event was organized on behalf of nine patient practice groups in the Dorchester area with the idea of looking at ideas that have worked elsewhere and could be adopted in and around the county town.
“Too often, individual NHS workers and volunteers feel like they are working in isolated silos of interest. Speakers have been chosen to illustrate how other communities have tackled isolation issues which will create major problems for the NHS. Closer integration of the third sector with the NHS is essential for both the NHS and the community in preventing rather than treating disease,” said Mr Wallis, who chairs the Poundbury Practice PPG.