STARTING A FRIENDSHIP FORUM

This was the first notice sent out for the first Forum in January 1998. It has met every Wednesday fortnight since that time, come rain or shine, and has a strong bonded membership of a dozen people. The nature of the Forum is to meet in the home, so we have begun to regrettably refuse membership to a growing number of people, as we simply cannot cope with a bigger group and in any case, we have discovered having more than that number (we have had up to 16 with occasional visitors) is just too much.

This was the original note sent out before the very first one. We have never kept record of the exact number held but based on our regularity there must have been over 600 so far.

THE FRIENDSHIP FORUM

You are invited to attend the first meeting of the Friendship Forum on Wednesday 14th January at 8.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. at .house address.

The Forum is intended as a group of like minded or maybe very different minded friends who meet on a regular basis for serious or playful discussions.

We propose the forum meets on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month, but this is a moving feast and there are no fixed rules or ideas. If you would like to participate in this group, please just arrive on the 14th at 8.00 p.m. If you would like to come but cannot make that particular date, then please give us a call on telephone number. We will provide some coffee and biscuits and hope it might become a more regular community activity in 1998. We hope it will be serious and fun, interesting and entertaining. We wish you a Happy and Peaceful New Year. Laurie and Estelle Phillips

As of 14th January 2011, the Friendship Forum has continued for 13 years without a break and the majority of members still attend every meeting.

We have sadly lost one regular male member who died. We have invited others to join us. Four members travel a lot and are with us only about 8 months a year but that does not matter. Over time the membership has changed and we are no longer members, having started Jewish Open Minds (JOM) in 2009. This has a similar very succcessful and popular discussion group based on the Friendship Forum model.

TO BE SUCCESSFUL THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE LEARNT OVER TIME.

1. It is essential the Forum meets every two weeks without fail. No cancelled meetings. Even if only 3 or 4 people attend as they sometimes did in the beginning. regularlity is essential for success.

2. Initially a fixed venue was used and probably helps. After a few months it moved to other people's houses. We then expanded to four or five different houses on a rotational basis. Now every member holds a meeting in turn and each person offers their home as a meeting place about once in six months.

3. In the first instance it was very local. People who lived within half a mile of each other. However the group now has extended and members come from a 10 mile radius. Members are keen enough to make the journey and it is for most a priority event in their diaries. By rotating venues, we all travel occasionally.

3. The subject is decided at the end of every meeting. It usually comes out of what was being said as we close.

4. We have found that ideally the subject is one word. Excitement, Money, Boundaries, Trust, Truth, Values, Justice, Darkness, Fear, Vulnerability, Humour, Simplicity. That alone generates more than enough discussion.

No subject is taboo!

5. No Chairperson is necessary, but the group needs to me mindful of keeping to the subject! Wandering off is all too easy.

6. It is important to really listen and give everyone opportunity to speak. The less extrovert members then get a chance to participate fully.

7. For the first few months it may prove necessary to invite a flow of new members. It doesn't suit everyone and not everyone stays. We have had several people who came once or twice and didn't return.

8. Refreshments are just tea/coffee and biscuits. No elaborate entertaining.

We have however had regular 'parties' about every six months where everyone brings food and drink.

9. We find 2 hours suits most people and we try and finish by 10 p.m.

10. Sometimes a member will read out something they have brought to do with the week's subject to get the discussion started, but this is entirely optional. It works well but it also works well without such input.

11. As the group develops, natural trust results. Acceptance and open-mindedness of whatever similarities and differences are present, are a great help in allowing everyone to be who they are. In this way everyone gets the most from the group and both openess and closeness grow.

12. Any changes, particularly in regard to inviting new members, are best agreed democratically. We have allowed occasional visitors, if they happen to be staying with a member on the night of a meeting. We ask that the host is given notice of visitors attending.

For any further help, information or advice contact Laurie Phillips. E-mail pax@peace.co.uk

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