No last orders at new ‘pub’ for stroke survivors in Wigan

A game of pool at the Think Ahead Tavern, with Think Ahead Strokes executive manager Carol Sankey photographed with the pub-themed groups regulars
A game of pool at the Think Ahead Tavern, with Think Ahead Strokes executive manager Carol Sankey photographed with the pub-themed groups regulars

Stroke survivors are enjoying some of the fun of a traditional Wigan watering hole once again thanks to a charity’s unusual idea.


The Think Ahead Tavern is a weekly group for working-age people who have suffered a stroke which seeks to replicate some of the experiences of a friendly local.

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The group meets at Think Ahead Stroke’s base at Ashland House in Ince every week and is growing in popularity.

Visitors to the pub-themed room enjoy traditional games and all the banter and conversation they would get in their favourite boozer, but there is no alcohol as this is not recommended after having a stroke.

The tavern is the brainchild of Hindley Green’s Simon Blakemore and Jimmy Nutt, both of whom are doing post-graduate courses in occupational therapy at the University of Salford.

Simon said: “I’ve always been aware of Think Ahead Stroke and the vital work it does with stroke survivors due to my studies and time working at Preston Royal Hospital.

“But I couldn’t help but think that a lot of the activities and groups it organised were aimed more at women – things like card making classes, art groups and Knit and Natter.

“I felt there was a gap for something a bit more for the lads, and in particular, working age stroke survivors who’d still like to get out for a laugh with their mates, but have maybe lost the confidence to leave the house, which is very common after a stroke.

“So I decided to pitch the idea of the Tavern to Think Ahead Stroke, they loved it, and the rest has been history.”

Simon recently passed leading the group over to regular Barry Smith from Whelley.

The 63-year-old, who survived a stroke in 2012 but was left with partial sight in one eye, did the Stepping Stones for Stroke recovery programme with the charity.

He said: “I’m lucky that I’m now well enough to run the Tavern most weeks, and so far it’s been really satisfying to see how people have improved one week to the next – particularly their confidence.

“It is confidence that’s key really, and some of the lads are at a very low ebb when they first arrive. What’s remarkable is how they help each other to overcome barriers in different ways.

“For example, one member currently has very limited speech, but between them the lads have found a way that he can still get involved in our weekly pub quiz. That means a lot to him, you can just tell.

“It’s amazing how much you can tell about an individual’s condition from just observing them relaxing, playing games and socialising – it reveals a lot about their physical and mental state.”

The group is moving to a permanent room in the building and wants to decorate it with more pub paraphernalia.

The Tavern runs on Tuesdays from 1pm until 3pm. Ring 01942 924888 to find out more.