This is a text-only version of an article first published on Tuesday, 21 May 2019. Information shown on this page may no longer be current.
A HUGE array of cakes are on offer as a variety of people, many with mental health problems, relax and chat together at Alice's Mad Hatter Tea Party in Oxford. Alice Hicks, who herself has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, set up the monthly party at the Richard Benson Hall at St Mary and St John's Church on Cowley Road.
"It's for anyone but most people here are living with mental health issues in their lives," said Alice. Alice is a member of the church and her friend, Verona Harris, who is the Sacristan, helps her set everything up. "It's wonderful that people from our church are so supportive of the tea parties and also provide all the lovely homemade cakes," she said.
The vicar, the Revd Phil Ritchie, lets them use the hall for free. "I met my friend Rosemary Wilson, from Bodicote, whose parish church runs tea parties for anyone who wants to come along, but mostly its older people. Because I have lived with bi polar for over 30 years, I have met so many other people with mental health issues.
This is about doing something ordinary and enjoyable, meeting for tea and cake, rather than accessing a formal mental health service. "Rosemary said: "A lot of us are isolated and I know when I am unwell I am very much alone.
This is a place where people can get together and meet people. "Jenny, one of Alice's friends and a regular at the party, said: "There have been cuts to day services and this helps fill the gap and gives people the chance to socialise informally, without nurses and other health professionals around. "Thomas, another regular, said: "This is a very friendly place, very welcoming.
My friend is just moving to this area and thought it was a good idea to come here and meet new people.
There's a very friendly atmosphere. "The tea party takes place on the second Tuesday of every month, 3pm to 4. 30pm.
Alice Hicks (right) with Verona Harris at Alice's Mad Hatter Tea Pary