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Ipswich Oddfellows celebrates Friendship Month – and urges people to reconsider their social lives

A community group in Ipswich has urged residents to ‘fill their September with friendship’ – which could be a boon to their mental and physical health.

Ipswich Oddfellows, based in High Street, is celebrating its annual Friendship Month, and urged anyone in the town, but particularly older people, to assess their social circles to see if they could benefit from making new friends.

The society, which was founded in 1810, provides opportunities for adults to get the most out of life.

The Ipswich Oddfellows is celebrating its Friendship Month. Picture: Oddfellows
The Ipswich Oddfellows is celebrating its Friendship Month. Picture: Oddfellows

As part of Friendship Month, the Oddfellows will host various taster sessions to allow people ‘to plug any friendship gaps’, and reap the benefits of joining a community group.

These include a music gig at their headquarters, which will play music from the 1960s and 1970s, and a coffee morning.

Martin Lambert, the social events organiser for the Ipswich branch, said the society wants to help people make new memories, new friends, and have fun.

He said: “We often talk about the dangers of loneliness to our health, but you don’t have to be lonely to need new friends.

“We benefit from having a well-rounded friendship group – which includes new friends, pals with shared hobbies and interests and friends who challenge and support you.”

“We’ve a wonderful range of personalities and people here at the Oddfellows. September’s the perfect time to try us out as we’ve some great Friendship Month events lined up, as well as our usual warm welcome.”

Mr Lambert wants to encourage people to consider attending Oddfellows events – particularly those who do not know what the society is or does.

These events are not just about combatting loneliness or making new friends, but also crossing boundaries, he said.

Psychologist, author and friend of the Oddfellows, Dr Denise Taylor spoke to the Oddfellows recently.

She echoed the importance of checking in on how you feel about your friendships, especially as you get older and circumstances change.

Dr Taylor said: “Friendships are vital to our social wellbeing and can have a direct effect on our physical and mental wellbeing. As we journey through life, we can go through many stages of transition – retirement, relocation, losing loved ones, which means that some friendships may slip away. Our opportunities to maintain a supportive social circle often reduces and the friendships we do have can take more work.

“I advise taking stock of your friendship network at regular stages in your life. Look at your own social wellbeing and identify what needs to change to ensure you feel fulfilled and supported by those around you.”

Dr Taylor said anyone who may feel lonely should assess any areas for improvements in their social life.

This could include looking into shared interests, the need for emotional support, joy in friendships, a sense of purpose or diversity.

“It’s not one-size-fits-all when it comes to an ideal mix of friends. It’s about identifying what you value, and doing something about it,” she added.

Mr Lambert joined the Oddfellows three months ago, and recently passed his probation.

He said he’d never heard of the society before he applied for the job, but thought it seemed like an interesting group to be a part of.

As a new recruit, this is his first experience with friendship month.

Mr Lambert added: “I think it’s a great idea, and I’m hoping to set up all kinds of events in the future. No one should be lonely.

“Ultimately, it’s about bringing people together, but in a way that isn’t forced. If an event isn’t for someone, they don’t have to come, and are free to attend next time.”

And looking beyond September, Mr Lambert has other events planned, including a festive visit to Stowmarket’s Christmas tree festival, and a talk by dialect expert Charlie Haylock.

Mr Lambert added: “It’s my first experience with Friendship Month, and it’s a great and worthwhile event that really helps people.”

The Oddfellows has more than 300,000 members across 103 branches in the UK, including in Stowmarket and Bury St Edmunds.