Forum founder 'blown away' by response to first event post lockdown

The Fakenham Exchange hosted their first meeting on September 8 at The Limes on Bridge Street,

The Fakenham Exchange hosted its first meeting on September 8 at The Limes on Bridge Street. - Credit: Toni Milliken

The founder of a market town forum was blown away by the response to its first event since the pandemic.

The Fakenham Exchange hosted its first meeting on September 8 at The Limes on Bridge Street, with 22 strangers coming together to just have a chat, share advice, or suggest a restaurant.

The exchange was set up in January 2020, having three meetings before the pandemic put it on hold.

The founder of the exchange, Toni Milliken, set up the group as she was struggling to meet new people in the county after moving to work at Gunthorpe Hall back in 2014.

The 39-year-old said the response to the event was amazing.

“It was absolutely brilliant - I was blown away,” she said.

Toni Milliken from Hempton

Toni Milliken from Hempton has reestablished the Fakenham Exchange, a forum bringing together anyone who is interested in having a chat. - Credit: Toni Milliken

“At the last one, we had between five or ten people turn up. So, to have over 20 this time made me so, so pleased.

“We took over the front of the Wetherspoon with a lot of people asking why we were so busy and they showed interest in the group before going for their dinner.”

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Mrs Milliken said people were sharing everything, from their lockdown experiences, their passions, or recommending somewhere good to eat, or a service they have used.

She said the demand for the exchange was people craving a human connection after the last 18 months.

The Limes on Bridge Street. in Fakenham.

The Limes on Bridge Street. in Fakenham. - Credit: Google Maps

“I think the people who were drawn to the evening were craving connection, craving to be able to interact with another human being,” she said.

“That human connection is a fundamental pillar for happiness to a human.

“If you drill down to most people who perhaps don’t want to go out, there is more afoot there, and they would benefit from the connections which help mental wellbeing.”

The founder said she will keep up the visibility of the group, and trying to bring in people who perhaps do not use social media, which they have used to let people know about them.

The group are meeting again on Wednesday, October 13 at The Running Horse in Fakenham. Starting at 7pm.

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