PEOPLE looking for a good meal and good company this Christmas are invited to a festive event aimed at tackling social isolation.

For the third year running, volunteers from Bishop Auckland Fellowship of Christian Churches will throw a festive lunch for those who could feel lonely on Christmas Day.

People do not have to be completely alone to take up the invitation, as the event is aimed at single people or couples who want to share the day with others.

Rev John Purdy, who chairs the Fellowship, said: "This invitation is open to people of all ages and circumstances, of all faiths and of no faith. We're offering a free meal to folk who don't want to be home on Christmas Day."

Rev Purdy said that last year's guests included an elderly mother and her retired son, people who could not afford a traditional lunch and others who were reasonably well-off but would feel lonely.

He said: "Some might be in in poverty, don't have the capacity to cook for themselves and the chip shop they rely on will be shut, they may have suffered a bereavement and don't want to face the obviously empty chair. Some folk who come are not in financial trouble but feel lonely so come to celebrate with other people, and make a donation which covers others' meals.

"Clubs in the area will hold festive events during December, but that one day is often the most difficult for people– emotionally and spiritually.

"All are welcome to gather together and feel included and supported."

Volunteers from churches throughout the town will prepare the food in the days leading up to Christmas, and assemble on the morning to serve lunch at Bishop Auckland Methodist Church, on Cockton Hill Road.

The event, which will start at 12noon, will include entertainment and organisers invite guests to make whatever donation they can afford.

Last year the team catered for around 35 people and were able to plate up spare meals for guests to take home for Boxing Day.

To book call Audrey Dinning on 01388-607907.