FIVE generations of women meet every week to share their stories in a very special Darlington cafe.

Great-great-grandmother Annie Ashton takes place of honour when her brood gather to share their stories and enjoy lunch at Cafe JJ – a venture staffed by volunteers with learning difficulties.

For years, the 89-year-old mother of 11 has visited the cafe every Tuesday with daughter Moira Basnett, 63, granddaughter Dawn Basnett, 44, great-granddaughter Stephanie Smith and great-great-granddaughter Mia Courtney, five.

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Their numbers are often boosted by other members of the large and loving family, with 20 people gathering for lunch and gossip today (Tuesday, August 5).

Dawn Basnett said: “We have a massive family and it’s important to us to get together every week because you never know when time is up.

“We take every chance we can to meet up and we’re very close, we make the effort to stay in touch and that’s how families should be.”

With one young relative having Down’s Syndrome, Cafe JJ is a venture that means a lot to Mrs Ashton’s family.

Ms Basnett said: “By coming here we’re giving support to the volunteers and that’s important as we have a little boy with Down’s Syndrome in the family and one day it could be him working here.

“People with learning difficulties should not be treated any differently and bringing our children here lets them see that they are normal and can do normal jobs.

“We are always made to feel so welcome and there should be more places like this.”

The team behind Cafe JJ prepare and serve homemade food at Darlington’s St Columba’s Church every Tuesday from 11am.