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Bury St Edmunds columnist Michael Apichella finds out more about social enterprise Leading Lives

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Old pal Niki Day invited me to a rollicking storytelling evening held at The Woolpack in Fornham St Martin.

There I met Judith Atkins. Judith works for Leading Lives, an organisation enabling people needing support to meet in ‘hubs’, secure environments where they meet other friendly folks. Leading Lives also helps men and women to find independence in their own homes. Since we care for my elderly mother-in-law, I wanted to know more.

According to Judith, Leading Lives is a not-for-profit, award-winning social enterprise providing social-care support for people with learning disabilities, autism and complex needs in the community across Suffolk and neighbouring counties and at home. Having over 20 years’ experience, Leading Lives offers learning-disability support through domiciliary care, supported living, short-break respite and daytime activities.

Michael Apichella (8955131)
Michael Apichella (8955131)

Judith, who has worked in a number other industries, is employed as Leading Lives’ business support at Cathedral View, a short-break respite unit in Bury St Edmunds. It’s one of several different services managed by Leading Lives.

“I joined in March 2017 and enjoy working in a more altruistic business setting because to me, it’s more uplifting! And it provides care for people of all ages, and disabilities, but mainly learning disabilities,” said Judith.

She says this work is a contrast to her previous jobs in agriculture, manufacturing, retail and insurance. Judith and her colleagues clearly are very excited about their work. “Leading Lives is a social enterprise and co-operative which values the aims of creating a better world for colleagues, members and customers,” she told me.

But for Judith, it isn’t all work and no play. “While administration, reception and book-keeping are my regular work-place skills, I enjoy Salsa dancing, and regularly attend Bury Speakers’ Club.”

Leading Lives was named the Health and Social Care Social Enterprise of the Year in the Social Enterprise UK Awards in 2015. It beat off stiff competition from social businesses across the UK to receive the award from Lord Victor Adebowale.

“I admire the way the support staff deal with customers, showing boundless patience and skill, and especially towards customers who have more challenging behaviours. I think they, like nurses, deserve so much appreciation for what they do on a daily basis,” said Judith. I fully concur! For more details, contact info@leadinglives.org.uk or ring 01473 406777.


Recently I wrote about Bury’s independent businesses serving all who come to town to shop and eat. Now, in addition to long-established Paddy & Scott’s Café, Gastrono-Me all day & night café, Really Rather Good Coffee and Tea shop, and Street Level Café among others, two new independently-owned cafés are open for business in the neighbourhood.

Charlotte Hassan and daughter Sofia run Lottie’s Artisan Waffles & Coffee on Angel Hill, offering coffee, good food and snacks, and specialising in hand-crafted waffles. The other is No. 5 Angel Hill, where Tanya and Charlie Athorne serve up a unique blend of good food and superb coffee.

Both venues are run by high-octane, experienced owner/managers, featuring distinctive, fun décors. Judging by these new, independent shops ready to serve us, Bury just gets better and better.


Finally, I applaud East-West Rail Consortium’s call for trains to run every 30 minutes from Bury to Cambridge, with services extending to Oxford from Suffolk. The forward-thinking group includes West Suffolk Council and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. With national rail being rediscovered elsewhere as public transportation’s future, I value our train network and want to see more people travelling by rail. For details contact FREEPOST East West Rail or contact@eastwestrail.co.uk

Meantime, to all who celebrate, have a good Passover and a Happy Easter!