When I was first diagnosed in January 2013, I was advised by Coeliac UK that the Bristol Coeliac UK Group no longer existed and was advised that they ‘have tried on several occasions to set up a Local Group but lack of engagement by Members in the area made this unsustainable’.
I tried broaching the subject with them again a few months ago and received the following response:
We have had Local Voluntary Support Groups in North Bristol and South Bristol but sadly these were both closed due to lack of support from Members. We then had interest shown a couple of years ago from Members in the area and set up a Bristol Local Voluntary Support Group but again, due to the Committee Members standing down and getting no support from Members in the area to form a new Committee, the Local Group was subsequently closed.
Therefore, and I am sorry, but we would not consider reopening another Local Group in Bristol at this particular time. However, as we say to all our Members who enquire about Local Groups, should we have significant requests relating to a Local Group in Bristol we will give serious thought to writing to Members to ascertain the level of support in the area and consider reopening a Local Group in the future.
As you probably know by now, I don’t let things lie, so I replied saying that as far as I’m concerned it’s ridiculous that somewhere as big as Bristol doesn’t have its own group, which yielded the following response:
Although people are always keen to have Local Groups in their area we find it is difficult to attract Committee Members needed to run a Local Group.
I should mention that we are already committed to opening/reopening our quota of Local Groups for this year so we would not be looking into the possibility of a Bristol Local Group until sometime in 2015.
Ok, so that’s as far as I was going to be able to go with Coeliac UK at this stage, so I decided to go it alone! I started up a ‘Coeliacs in Bristol’ Facebook group to try to gauge interested in starting a group, with the intention of having a group already established which should encourage Coeliac UK to take us seriously when they review their groups next year.
I’m pleased to say that the group has received a lot of interest and we held our first gathering last Thursday at The Stable, Bristol.
I have to give an even bigger thank you to Mandy of Gluten Free Somerset for providing us all with a slice of battenburg and a chocolate and orange cupcake (a review of these will be posted on the blog separately)!
The event was a great success and we’ve already decided that our next meet up will be on the 6th November at a venue to be confirmed, and the gatherings will be held on the 1st Thursday of every month from then on.
Ultimately it will be good to get a substantial group of people together to discuss forming the official group, but for the time being it’s nice to be able to meet new people, share experiences and make friends! 🙂
As I mentioned earlier, I think it’s ridiculous that Bristol doesn’t have its own official group. There’s no reason why we couldn’t host gluten free food fairs and fundraising events and I feel that there is already a level of commitment from the current members of the group so if we’re only going to grow, then I see no reason why this can’t happen!
If you agree and want to keep an eye on our events, come and join our Facebook page!