We do want to hear from people who are disabled or have experience with disability, in Britain and abroad, who would like to set up a local group. We do llke to get to know organisers first, to be sure that you will be accepting of all the physically and socially disabled people who join your group, volunteer to help run lunches and maybe workshop /discussions and write up your events and activities in our online Clubhouse. Volunteering tasks might entail
• publicising your group, both in local papers and amongst disability organisations, perhaps focusing on a disabled person who wants to join. All this can be done with our help
• supporting those who get in touch to join our Club
• finding a venue for lunches, seeking help to run them, preferably from eager members and setting dates and times. Two documents have been produced to guide you:
• running your local group page in our Clubhouse.
• enjoying conference online communication with other group organisers to swap notes and learn.
• adhering to our guidelines :
Basic Guidelines for running a London Lunch
1 Date – Best select a Saturday at 1.30 when other diners will be finished and you have an empty-ish venue. Continue till 5 or 6. Best to make it regular, once a month.
2 Choice of Venue Choose a venue which has the following qualities
a) staff with a good attitude to disabled people
b) wheelchair accessibility and an accessible toilet
c) parking beside it or nearby
d) near public transport
e) quietish – no football on telly or loud music, no noisy guests, not masses of children
f) choose a quiet district – eg the financial or business district of town where the weekday masses have gone, leaving plenty of eating places
f) reasonably priced and a wide selection of food and drinks. Don’t, for example, select and Indian or Mexican restaurant (unless you are in India or Mexico). Gastropubs are often ideal.
g) ideally, you need a spaceous alcove with a few tables in it – somewhere you will have a bit of privacy but still feel connected
h) don’t use a restaurant where they will bring one bill which you have to share, but where everybody places their own orders and pays for themselves.
i) don’t use a restaurant which needs to know numbers in advance because, however much you try to find out, many won’t show up and you will have unexpected arrivals
j) do ask your guests if they like it and listen to better suggestions.
3) Gathering a team around you It’s best if you have a team of three very reliable people, consisting of both genders, mixed abilities – physically and professionally. People who want to be the centre of attention or talk too much are not good. All should be accepting of disabled people, good listeners and socially outgoing.
I qualified in sex therapy in order to be able to support members with their sexual problems, which I have often done at lunches. Getting such a professional to join your team would be ideal, although I hear that they have many clients on a Saturday afternoon.
You all need to be able to suss people out and be prepared to reject them if they seem drunk, predatory or trouble makers. You can always ask the venue to throw them out or call the police to do so. Thankfully, we have hardly had any trouble in 35 years and I feel safer with Outsiders members than anyone. I never worry about leaving my purse lying around. Outsiders is covered by Public Liability Insurance.
You need to arrange with the team which one will be responsible for meeting shy and nervous newcomers at the entrance and bringing them over to the group. That person will need to put their contact details on publicity and give the newcomer their mobile phone number. NB it’s sometimes OK to meet members off the train etc but frustrating if they don’t turn up, so keep in contact by phone.
4) Publicity Together we can compose a press release to go out to local papers, disability groups and newsletters and TV and radio.
5) Coordinating with Outsiders Ensure we have details of everything you are doing as we don’t want Outsiders’ name be used for something unsuitable. Buy a beautiful A5 lined notebook in which your guests can sign their names and make comments. In London we have three columns: Name, area they live, and comments on the lunch. You can use that to write up the lunch and send us the details of it – with any problems you had.
4) Preparing the venue on the day turn up at least half an hour early to ensure everything is OK. Ensure wheelchair users will have at least a metre’s passageway to access all parts of your gathering and the accessible toilet. It’s best to have one large table (could be made of tables pushed together) for a big group to sit together and smaller tables and chairs. Move about a quarter of the chairs aside for wheelchair users.
5) Running the lunch Keep one eye on the door and don’t engage in long conversations with guests at the start of the afternoon as you need to greet new arrivals.
a) Introduce people to each other.
b) discourage small talk and ask guests personal questions like what sort of partner / ideal they are looking for. Introduce them accordingly.
c) ask them if they would like a group discussion. Ideally it would be great if all lunches in a month ran the same discussion topic and then reported the outcome in the Clubhouse. Most people at the London lunch join in discussions, enjoy and gain from them.
d) if someone arrives who has unusual methods of communication, it’s good if you make an announcement to everyone, explaining how to communicate with them. NB People with communication impairments such as hearing or speech, tend to be left out, even in disability groups such as ours.
Just get in touch with us and let’s get going!