MENTAL HEALTH: How a Yorkshire shopping centre is combatting loneliness

Days Out

With mental health awareness week having the theme of loneliness, we look at how a shopping centres has become a community destination in their own right.

With the demise of pubs and community centres, The Ridings Shopping Centre hopes to offer a lifeline for those experiencing loneliness 

The high street has seen a resurgence thanks to a Yorkshire community shopping centre who thrives off being ‘more than just a thoroughfare,’ but aims to connect people to reduce isolation and loneliness. 

The Ridings Shopping Centre in Wakefield has been a longstanding part of the district’s retail offering. But ever since the pandemic, with shoppers returning, the centre has been transformed into a community hub. 

“With so many pubs and community centre closing, we knew we needed to offer our centre as a place for people to connect not just shop.

“We decided we would become the one-stop shop for a customer’s needs to provide a place to socialise, play, create, shop and eat all-under-one roof. As well as offering community organisations space to carry out their vital work, artists to busk and artists to display their work,” explained Lee Appleton, Centre Director, The Ridings Shopping Centre. 

Unlike the empty shops frequenting the high street, The Ridings have filled all of their spaces through a collaboration with The Arthouse Wakefield via the Makey Wakey scheme offering a place for community groups, creatives and artists to work from. 

They also offer space to groups such as Men in

Need Together. 


The Ridings centre are proud to have partnered with Men In Need Together.

There mission is to reduce suicide in men aged 18+ by providing a safe place for them to speak out without judgement. They began out of tragedy when a close friend Jack Bentley took his own life when things got too much. They wanted to make sure that no men went through the same thing and created something beautiful at a time of sadness.

They do all of this by providing free support groups each week for all men to attend and talk about their struggles in a peer to peer setting. Each group comes equipped with at least one facilitator who run’s the group and directs the conversation and one counsellor who provides more in depth and professional advice and of course free refreshments!

They also provide free online support via our Facebook Page and sign posting to relevant organisations if specialist help is needed.

There goal is to have a free support group in every town and city throughout the UK to ensure that every man has somewhere to go if they need it and we are proud to be their chosen location in Wakefield, full details can be found here

 With more than 85% of people in Wakefield saying that lockdown’s had an impact on their mental health. 

A survey by the district’’s Healthwatch group found more than a third said coronavirus had had a significant or very significant effect on their mental wellbeing. 

From gardening clubs to owning a mini plot, The Ridings Shopping Centre is much more than a collection of shops, it’s a community hub nestled in a fast-paced part of Wakefield city Centre, cushioned between busy bus routes, sky-scraping flats and a busy commuter route for those utilising its car park or hiking through.  

You can even experience the fresh air and get green fingered when you head upstairs to the car park for their rooftop allotment. 

They partnered up with district wide social enterprise Incredible Edible to create this vital space because they know how important eco-therapy is for mindfulness, how growing your own can reduce stress levels and gardening is even a great form of low impact aerobic exercise.

Outside and in, The Ridings have been ensuring they make the centre fully accessible and inclusive to everyone. They’ve even introduced an inclusivity bench. 

As the theme of mental health month is loneliness it’s important to pay homage to elderly people who experience isolation. 

The Ridings , supported by Age UK offer a monthly Cuppa Club. 

With social isolation soaring during the Pandemic, particularly among elderly people, the return of an award-winning Cuppa Club was much needed.

Cuppa Club, a partnership between The Ridings Shopping Centre and Age UK Wakefield District does more than just provide tea and a space. But it provides a touchpoint for people to join together to share conversation, experiences and build friendships. 

From April, Twice a month The Ridings and AgeUk play host to events to help combat loneliness, with the popular Cuppa Club which is based in The Ridings Centre, Cuppa Club happens on the 2nd Thursday and Age UK,s Time for tea on the 4th Thursday of each month, both 10am – 12 noon, giving comfort and regular structure to elderly people across the district.

There’s something that feels good when we get rid of clutter we no longer need – a tidy home is a tidy mind after all – and what better way to find something new to love than to swap it?

Then it’s Swap Shop time – a new initiative from The Ridings Shopping Centre designed to support the community and the environment. 

Swap shop 

We know how items can cost the earth with fast fashion being one of the highest polluting industries in the world, aside from oil and gas. So it’s important to reduce our waste as much as possible and what better way to that than this new space which and seating area… 70s style.  – CH – no clothes, feel free to reword. 

You will be able to borrow, swap or bring in items you no longer want, but other people may find useful!

But before this new initiative is ready to launch they need your help and let’s face it we all need a good declutter. 

They need donations to add to the items they already have, they are looking for:

? Books

? Magazines


? Board games

? CDs

? DVDs

? Albums / vinyl

? Computer console games

Donations can be left at the customer service lounge on the upper mall next to Boots. 

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