First Ready Friends Befriending Forum of 2019

Primary interest
Voluntary sector

38 people came along to the Community Hub in Reading Central Library for the first Befriending Forum of 2019, demonstrating the amazing variety of voluntary and community organisations (VCOs) that work in Reading, and beyond. The event offered a mixed menu of activities and themes, to suit the varying needs of the participants. Feedback on the different sessions was very positive with 100% saying they found it useful and would come to future events.

Rhiannon Stocking-Williams introduced herself as the new Ready Friends Coordinator, acknowledging the excellent work undertaken by her predecessor, Rachel Goater. Rhiannon outlined the main current work streams for the project:

  • Coordinating quarterly Befriending Forums
  • Developing a Ready Friends Toolkit
  • Supporting VCOs to attract new funding
  • Supporting the Loneliness and Social Isolation Steering Group
The Jo Cox Foundation  and The Great Get Together

Jonathan Harty, Campaign Project Manager introduced the purpose and work of the Jo Cox Foundation, which was started by the MP Jo Cox, who passionately believed that we all have more in common than we imagine.

The Great Get Together was an initiative founded in 2017 by the family and friends of Jo Cox, who wanted to celebrate her values with street parties, sports days, BBQs, picnics and coffee mornings. Jonathan Harty delivered an interactive and lively workshop during which participants developed plans for their own Great Get Together event.

Participants worked through a set of stages to ensure that everything had been covered, with a challenge to ‘Get your gingham on’!  The Great Get Together’s theme is based on a red and white gingham livery. Jonathan challenged the group to come up with novel ideas to incorporate it, which included gingham bouncy castles, pirate hats and eye patches, cakes, and fake nails!

Skilling up to reduce loneliness

Matt Taylor from Age UK Reading facilitated a session to explore developing a common core training offer, the delivery of which could be shared by VCOs. A number of groups expressed a keen interest in an event or events to celebrate volunteer befriending, include learning activities, case studies and an opportunity to find out about how to volunteer to reduce loneliness and social isolation.

A number of participants offered to be involved in developing and delivering the events and Rhiannon asked people to get in touch to join a working group, to progress this project idea. Email

Finding out what’s on in Reading

Rhiannon reported that ‘not being able to find out what’s on around Reading’ was in the top three challenges described in recent research into loneliness and social isolation. It is not neatly all in one place, but there are a number of information sources that anyone can access for themselves, their friends, neighbours and service users.

Maryam Makki from Reading Borough Council demonstrated how to use the Reading Services Guide which has undergone significant improvement in recent years. David Neale from Get Online Reading at RVA showcased a number of other websites that contain useful local information about services and events in and around Reading.

Further Befriending Forums will be held quarterly in May, September and December 2019

Information, links, presentations and other resources from Befriending Forum events are available on the RVA Ready Friends webpages.