Love may have blossomed for more than one couple after a charity that helps people with learning difficulties to navigate relationships played cupid.
The Josephine and Jack Project hosted the first ever speed dating event to be held for people with learning disabilities in Cumbria, following which two sets of dates were arranged.
Held as part of Learning Disability Week 2019 by Shared Lives Cumbria, part of Cumbria County Council, the event attracted around 60 singletons looking for a potential partner, using the charity’s anatomically correct cloth characters – Josephine and Jack – to help them explore the issues around dating.
Chief Executive Simon James explained: “Josephine and Jack are a unique resource for men and women with learning disabilities, helping them safely explore matters of sexual health and wellbeing.
“It’s been fantastic to work on something so new with Shared Lives Cumbria, and we’re looking forward to hearing how the dates go and if love will blossom from our efforts.”
Lorna Bell, a supervisor at Shared Lives Cumbria was so pleased with the event that she’s already planning on running future sessions.
She said: “It was an amazing evening and we’ve had some wonderful feedback – it certainly supported some individuals we work alongside to think more about dating, what they wanted from a partner and also their own sexual preferences.
“Without doubt I will be hosting something similar in the future and The Josephine and Jack Project are at the top of my list.”
Each Josephine and Jack figure has unique features, such as a detachable breast or testicle with a detectable lump, to be used in a bespoke range of workshops exploring general health, sexual health, mental health and wellbeing.
The project, based at Newcastle’s Good Space, started life as part of Them Wifies community arts organisation before becoming a charity in its own right following the closure of the group in 2015. Having featured on Channel 4 News and in the New York Times, it now works with groups such as Guidepost in Gateshead, Journey in Wallsend, with local schools and with a range of clients across the North East.
There are also Josephines and Jacks in Scotland, Northumberland and London working under license to the project, which is currently waiting to find out of it is to be named the UK’s best Community Organisation in the disability category at The National Diversity Awards 2019.
The awards, which receive more than 25,000 nominations and votes annually, recognise nominees in their respective fields of diversity including age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation. They will be taking place in September at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, and shortlisted nominees will be announced any day now.
To find out more about Josephine and Jack, visit josephineandjackproject.co.uk.