A great start as Luton Irish Forum makes its Happy Return from pandemic restrictions
'It’s just wonderful to hear all the chatter and laughter again'
With society tentatively opening up in line with the Government’s roadmap out of the pandemic, the Luton News and Dunstable Gazette wants to be with our readers every step of the way.
We want to hear your positive stories about how you/your family, your business, your club/society or maybe your sports team is re-emerging from the restrictions which have made the past year so challenging. See details at the end of this article for more details on getting involved. Here, Luton Irish Forum tells its story...
Luton Irish Forum (LIF) started welcoming members back to its social clubs last month (from May 17) – to the absolute delight of volunteers and staff as well as club attendees. A lively bingo session was the first group back on Tuesday (18th) morning with the Emerald Pipe Band practising together for the first time in more than a year that evening.
Other members enjoyed additional bingo sessions on the Wednesday, the ‘tea and chat’ group on Thursday and Friday’s art class, all back in the LIF centre on Hitchin Road in Luton.
Noelette Hanley, Chief Executive Officer at LIF, said: “Right through the pandemic we continued to provide much needed welfare advice and support to locals and some groups met by Zoom, but we’re so thrilled to have our members coming back in to the social groups now. It’s just wonderful to hear all the chatter and laughter again.
“We’re limiting numbers by pre-booking to enable social distancing, wearing face coverings and have other measures in place to maintain our Covid-Safe building. For the time being calligraphy and Irish language groups are continuing by Zoom, and choir will return soon. Things are not back to where we were but it’s been a great start.”
One of the first through the door was Rose Pender who said: “I’m delighted to be back. The Forum is amazing, helps so many people. Definitely glad they (social clubs) are open again.”
Eddie is one of a few attendees who isn’t Luton-based. To travel from Leighton Buzzard he has to get two buses each way. He said: “Getting to the Forum is hard but well worth the effort, I really look forward to going there. I enjoy meeting other people, having a chat and a joke. It’s nice to get involved.”
The volunteers who run LIF’s social groups are part of the volunteer team which were awarded the prestigious QAVS last June, the equivalent of an MBE for voluntary groups. The charity hopes that the planned award ceremony for volunteers will take place this July.
Discover Luton Irish Forum at www.lutonirishforum.org or phone 01582 720447 for details of LIF’s services and how to access them.
> Why not get involved inour Happy Returns feature? We’d be delighted to hear details of how businesses and the community are emerging from the restrictions of the pandemic.
It might be news of a business relaunching, your youth sports team resuming its matches, how your school is coping with the ongoing challenges, how your club or society is ditching Zoom and is looking to meet face-to-face again, a family reunion or celebration which can finally go ahead, or the many other examples of events and activities we all took for granted slowly returning.
This is a great chance to tell your story over the coming weeks and months ahead. Submit 100-300 words to this newspaper on how the pandemic has had an impact, how you’ve kept going and most importantly news of your ‘Happy Return’ when it’s deemed safe. We’d also love to receive photos of those joyful reunions/reopenings. Please send all details to [email protected]