Northern Ireland cafe scheme serving up a cuppa and a chat

A new ‘chatty cafe’ project designed to tackle loneliness has expanded in Co Antrim with people invited to pop in to three locations to enjoy a conversation with other customers.

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 9:02 am

Three of the ‘chatty cafes’ have opened in Larne — the Salvation Army (Main Street), The Prom Café (Larne Leisure Centre) and Barbara Ann’s Home Bakery (Fairhill).

The idea, backed by the local council, is for a table to be set aside and made available as a ‘chatty table’ where customers can sit if they are happy to have a conversation with other customers.

The scheme, being rolled out by Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network, part funded by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, aims to tackle loneliness and reduce isolation by creating opportunities to talk and interact.

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Mayor William McCaughey at the ‘chatty cafe’ on the Prom Cafe in Larne

It follows a similar ‘Chatty Benches’ initiative, whereby bright yellow benches in a number of the council’s public spaces provide opportunities for conversation in the outdoors.

Mayor, Councillor William McCaughey, officially opened the new Larne Chatty Cafés and said: “One in three people in Northern Ireland are likely to experience feelings of loneliness in their lifetime.

“Throughout this difficult year of lockdowns, isolation and restrictions on our social activities, human contact has been limited, which has impacted our mental health.

“The challenges the pandemic has created in terms of creating loneliness in communities is something that the Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network aims to tackle.

“I was delighted to attend the launch of the Chatty Cafés for Larne and look forward to seeing many more established across the borough.”

Yvonne Carson, the Northern Trust’s lead for loneliness and social isolation, added: “It’s very encouraging to see the establishment of three more Chatty Cafés in the borough. At a time when we have seen many restrictions on our social activities it’s great to see initiatives like this promoting interaction and conversation.”

Annemarie and Philip, from the Salvation Army cafe, said: “This is such a great scheme, promoting understanding and kindness and the Salvation Army are so proud to be involved. I can reassure people that if they are feeling isolated they will get a big welcome if they come down to the Main Stre - call in and have a chat.

“You never know what people are going through and a bit of laughter and conversation can lift everyone’s spirits. I really hope this scheme will encourage more people to reach out and make that first step.”

Barbara, from Barbara Ann’s Home Bakery, added: “Customers can enjoy a cuppa and a bun while having a conversation and meeting new people.”

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