By Lotte Pegler
A group of women in Bognor Regis are trying to tackle social isolation – one karaoke night at a time.
The team of five, heading Get Bognor Social (GBS), are leading the fastest growing community group in the town – with more than 450 members to date.
Their next big event is a major step back in time as they are set to host an 80s disco at TAO on High Street.
As their first big fundraiser, the team hope to draw in a big crowd, encouraging people to dress up with a back-to-school theme. Helen Cowan, one of the committee leading the group, said: “We’re all super excited for the event, and so are the rest of our group.
“Lots of people are getting really into it. We’re going to have a tuck shop with retro sweets, there’s a big surprise and a raffle that’s been donated from lots of local businesses. We’ve supported them, they’ve supported us.
“We had a man say ‘If you can raise £2000 by January then I’ll give you £1000’. So we had to think how can we do that? We’ve all done lots of things, like Stoptober where each of us stopped something, like drinking or smoking or even eating chocolate.
“Tickets are £5 which can be bought online or on the door, but we do ask for people to give us a heads up so we know rough numbers. We’ll also be at The Waverley on Sunday and people can buy tickets then.
“If you feel socially isolated and feel like you could do with a friend, we’re here. You won’t regret it. We always say that and it really is true. We’re a family.”
Get Bognor Social is a constituted community group, meaning they can raise money for themselves.
They host events, big and small, throughout the year, averaging to about two every week.
“We’ve had lots of reviews from people saying how we’ve changed their life, made it worth living,”
“It’s lovely to have such great feedback. We’ve all got jobs and families and our own issues. We’re all so empathetic to each other because we’re all kind of in the same boat.
“We’re a very eclectic mix of people, with our youngest member being 18, and our oldest being 80.”
Each member of the committee has their own reason for being part of the group. Corrina Holyoak, 42, who was the founder of the group originally, actually started it not because she was alone, but because her husband didn’t like going out.
“I’m married but my husband doesn’t like to go out much. He wouldn’t want to come to karaoke or something like that, but this group, these girls, they will.
“It’s not just for people who are alone, it’s for people who want a group to go out with, a group to have fun with – another family.”
Another of the committee members was Margaret, 62, who joined after her husband left her.
“After my husband walked out I went through a really bad stage of depression and anxiety, she said.
“I felt worthless. I stayed inside all day, weekends were awful.
I saw the Facebook page and I thought I’d give it a go. It’s completely turned my life around. These girls are so amazing I see them more than my actual family. They are my family. We’re in constant contact, we’re always there for eachother. It’s really special and I’m so grateful for everyone.”