Virtual Hubs – What’s On?

The Virtual Hubs and Social Hubs are for participants on the Connecting Choices Project in Stoke on Trent & North Staffs. To be part of a social hub or virtual hub you have to have been referred by one of our partners who have signed you up to support you. To find out if you, or someone you know is eligible for sign up just contact Julie Pristenall at Ixion Holdings on this number and she will tell you all you need to know.

Julie Priestnall External Engagement Manager
Ixion part of Shaw Trust
M:  07395 793838 E:

26th January 2021 UPDATE: Our schedule of activities on the right of this page just keeps growing as members find more creative ways to fill their time during lockdown. In addition to the schedule we are currently discussing with a new volunteer the setting up of a Creative Writing Group and starting a Book Club. Watch this space.

Our Mindfulness Workshops and Mindful Drawing sessions are receiving amazing feedback from people who suffer with anxiety who are finding that they are able to calm themselves, reduce their anxiety and improve their sleep by applying the techniques they are learning in the workshops. Members who are doing the Watercolour Painting sessions are saying things like “I can’t believe I did this”, “I feel so proud of myself for creating this”. These are people who have no self esteem, no self belief and are unable to believe that they have a value. Its wonderful to hear them believing in themselves again, or maybe for the first time!

In a survey we did last September with participants we asked them “Of the support you receive from the Starfish Social Hubs which has been the most useful and why”. Here are some of the responses:

“Website is great to keep up to date and Virtual hubs and classes, giving me a purpose and something to look forward to”

“Just talking to some one who cares and understands my life i dont trust many people.”

“Going on social virtual hub meeting new people having a chat to them”

“The Virtual Social Hub has been the most useful support. “It’s been a game-changer”.

“Phone calls have helped but would like ability to use Zoom”

If you know someone on the Connecting choices project who is lonely and socially isolated, show them some of these comments, they may be enough to encourage them to join us virtually, and then meet face to face once lockdown ends.

As the weeks go by we are able to offer more and more activities virtually to support people. If you glance at the Weekly Schedule to the right of this page you will see what is currently on offer. This will be regularly changed as more opportunities are developed.

Following discussions with hub members, we will be holding a Mutual Support session after each Virtual social hub on Monday for those who are feeling abit anxious or upset. It will run on from the Hub and those needing it will stay signed in to chat with volunteers, staff and each other about their worries.

Due to the demand from participants we have started daily Breakfast Meetings 10 – 11.00 am each weekday. Hosted by one of our volunteers, its a place to come to chat if you are feeling abit lonely or need some moral support or signposting to some help or advice. We have noticed that this is very male dominated so are exploring with participants if they would prefer to have a separate one for the ladies and one for the gents. We will see what comes in terms of feedback.

Running now:

BCB Festival team are running some more Clay Workshops and we are working with their amazing team to get some clay delivered to participants homes so that our participants can gather to work the clay and have guidance online via Zoom from one of the ceramicists at Spode. Its going amazingly well so far and we try to put some examples of the creations they make on the virtual hub page for you here

Citizens Advice Workshops – the first sessions were so successful that we were thrilled when Citizens Advice offered some more. As soon as they come back with some dates we will post them here and promote them via social media. They will be on Mondays and to give you an idea we have posted the topics asked for at the last workshop below. Remember, Sarah is a Benefits Expert and will support you with answers to questions around that but will signpost you to a more relevant team member for other items. Below are the topics covered in the last session and the advice Sarah gave enabled on of our participants to successfully argue his right not to be moved on to Universal Credit.

  • What are the key things I need to think about if I am moving house – does it affect my benefits, my support services, my bill paying and who do I need to notify if am moving from one council to another?
  • Is ESA linked to PIP?
  • How do I get a Social Services Assessment report to support a PIP application? Do I need to have one?
  • Talk to us about the things you would like to be covered in future sessions.

Please contact Starfish, Val or David to register an interest. If you are not part of the Social Hub membership but want to join the session speak to your Personal Coach and ask them to arrange this for you.

Poetry Anyone? We have been working with the amazing Mel Wardle Woodend, Poet Laureate for Staffordshire who has helped our members in their 4 week workshop, to appreciate poetry. We have a bid in for some funding to run a 10 week workshop with Mel in the New Year, so fingers crossed that this will be successful.

What People are saying about the virtual social hubs

“I just feel as if I have some time out of my head when I come to virtual hub – its like a break from my house and my thoughts”

“It was weird at first, seeing everyone on Zoom, and I felt very nervous, but now it just seems normal and I feel I can talk about stuff and everyone understands”

“The virtual hubs have really helped me to get through some tough stuff thats been happening with my grandparents – just being able to talk to everyone and have a laugh has been so good”

“It was a great idea to do memories of something from when you were young in the art session today – everyone talked about stuff that mattered to them – I liked that”

“I look forward to Wednesdays for the virtual hub almost as much as for the real hubs in Fenton. So glad you’ve been able to do these for us – but that doesn’t mean I don’t want the real hubs back too. ”

If you would like to find out a little more first visit this link to find out what the virtual social hubs are doing each week.