Cyprus Mail

Club which provides lifeline for UK community on the brink of collapse

feature bejay main 91 year old ivy gibson would go to the ukca club most sundays for lunch
91 year old Ivy Gibson would go to the UKCA club most Sundays for lunch
Elderly British expats hit the hardest by pandemic-induced closure


For 91-year-old Ivy Gibson the UKCA social club in Paphos is a lifeline that staves off loneliness, a feeling that has only been exacerbated by months of lockdown and self-isolation.

“I miss going to the club and seeing everyone, I am feeling a bit lonely,” she told the Sunday Mail.

The UK Citizens’ Association club has been an integral part of the lives of many British residents in Cyprus for the last 21 years and like its elderly member Ivy has been especially badly hit by the lockdown measures.

Unless it’s allowed to reopen its doors in the next couple of weeks, it will struggle to remain in operation at all, club officials have warned.

“We have lost a lot of money due to being closed and we are still paying bills and rent for the premises, although we have negotiated to pay less during these times. We have no income from membership fees or bar sales either. We really need to open,” head of the UKCA, Debbie Bell told the Sunday Mail.

feature bejay the ukca bar normally makes around 5,000 euros a month
The UKCA bar normally makes around 5,000 euros a month

The UKCA Social Club was created to meet the needs of both the full and part-time UK expatriate population, as well as for those holidaying on the island. It organises entertainment, hosts a plethora of all sorts of groups, has a club library and offers reasonably priced food and drink. There is also a welfare section.

The forced closure of the club has meant an abrupt halt in social interaction for many Paphos residents, particularly older members, who regard the club as a lifeline. Ninety per cent of the club’s members are over the age of 60 and a few are in their 90s, Bell said.

“The UKCA is the main place that I go for my Sunday lunch and take a friend there. I know Debbie and she treats me like family,” said Ivy. “She is still keeping in contact by phone, but it’s just not the same.”

Although the 91-year-old likes to keep busy by knitting blankets for local charities, Ivy now has little social interaction with other people.

Another elderly member told the Sunday Mail that he hasn’t seen anyone since the club closed in December.

“I feel very isolated and I haven’t got anyone to talk to. I am very reliant on going to the UKCA. There is always someone there to have a conversation with. They are a really friendly bunch. I can get hot food and a drink there too. I don’t really cook for myself these days,” he said

Bell explained that as the club was forced to close last year they have been badly affected. Unlike many other businesses, the club’s busiest time is during the winter months. Many British residents return to the UK during the hotter months of June, July and August, making winter trade, from September to May, is the UKCA’s busiest time.

“We lost our big money earners of Christmas and New Year’s Eve. As we are a ‘not for profit’ organisation, staff are getting nothing and my heart goes out to people who don’t have any savings or anything put aside,” she said.

The club is hoping to host a Christmas Day lunch when they are allowed to reopen, whatever the month, as it was previously a soldout event.

Operating costs for the club are around €4,000 a month and include rent, wages, social insurance payments and building maintenance.

The club is also available for private hire for a small fee and that this is an area that will be promoted once it is allowed to open its doors again.

Members are also missing participating in events and the long list of activities offered. These include: a camera and computer club, bingo, crib, Mahjong, darts, backgammon and all sorts of dance groups, including line dancing.

“The club is a friendly place to relax, meet old friends and make new ones. It’s easy to join and membership brings many benefits, but only some of our members have rejoined so far, due to the uncertainty,” Bell said.

The club usually has around 300 to 400 members who each pay an annual 50 euros fee. So far, only around one hundred have paid for this year, she said.

In addition, the busy bar which usually brings in around €5,000 a month for the club has had no income. Rent from the restaurant also brings in further income.

Bell noted that the club was only open for a week in November 2020 and around 10 days in December. It is usually open 7 days a week from around 8.30am to 10pm.

“We have no idea when we will be able to open again. Along with all the other businesses affected, we are finding it really hard. I don’t know what the future may hold for us,” Bell said.







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