20 April 2019
Inside the café Photograph: Ke Deng
Table offers place to chat for passing strangers
Fancy sharing your lunch with a stranger? It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but that is precisely what is being proposed at one cafe in the Merchant City.
The museum café run by Encore Hospitality Services at St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art is offering the opportunity to engage with another human being, how novel. They’re calling the project their Chatter & Natter table and it was set up to help urbanites defeat loneliness, customers or visitors to this cafe can enjoy/endure a conversation with random others.
The Chatter & Natter table is part of the city’s support for the The Campaign to End Loneliness and provides a space for conversation; whether for five minutes and a quick blether over a cup of tea, or a lunch and an hour and a half of riveting conversation.
Chatter & Natter sticker in the window of the café Photograph: Ke Deng
There is a sign on a table in the cafe which means that those customers sitting at it are willing to talk with others. You just have to take a seat and wait, the wait could be five minutes, could be half an hour, perhaps nobody will come at all.
Whilst some might be petrified at the thought of sitting down with a stranger and having to talk to them, others will welcome the designated conversation area. Those who do decide to take a seat at the Chatter & Natter table can enjoy a dessert together and talk about work, the troubles that occur in their day-to-day lives, their difficulties in learning, or just a story about another life that is different from their own, an opportunity to step out of their world and see things from a fresh perspective.
The project is part of the international Chatty Cafe scheme which was started by Alexandra Hoskyn. She found herself sitting at a cafe table feeling down, with nobody to talk to but her four month old son and she noticed the lonely faces of those around her and she was inspired to launch the scheme after she “started to think about the positive impact we could have had on each other if we had sat together.”
The Campaign to End Loneliness “believe that people of all ages need connections that matter.”
They say on their website that: “There are nine million lonely people in the UK and four million of them are older people. Many older people find constant loneliness hardest to overcome. They lack the friendship and support we all need.”
With regard to Glasgow they say: “Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city with over 615,000 people living there. In Glasgow we are looking at people over 55 years-old as the ageing process may present earlier for people living in the city. There are over 150,000 people aged over 55 in the city and UK national averages would suggest that 10% of older people in the city face chronic loneliness with many thousands more facing it regularly.”
“We want to see if we can encourage Glasgow to do even more work to combat loneliness amongst older people. We will be working with Glasgow City Council and other key partners in the public sector, third sector, business sector and the wider civil society to look at the best way to do that.” They add.
St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art Photograph: Ke Deng
Ann Cameron, the administrator of St Mungo’s Museum said on their website that: “When we introduced the Chatter & Natter table we didn’t quite know how it would be received.”
But, since its inception, about six months ago, cafe staff have noticed that during peak hours, when the tour guides and the staff of the Glasgow Cathedral come to enjoy their break, the table is quite busy.
James Domerty, the manager of St Mungo’s Museum, said: “We know that a five-minute conversation will keep a person in good mood all day long.”
“Chatting with strangers will make you know more about some stories, rather than worrying about your own troubles all the time.”
Entrance of museum café Photograph: Ke Deng
John Dilworth, a guest at the table, said: “Today, I got a latte and spoke with a man who had been visiting the museum as I was waiting for the tour to start.”
The Chatter & Natter scheme is all about kindness and encourages us to get back in touch with our own humanity, everyone is a person, everyone has troubles, you are not alone. The table is a platform for individuals to engage with their community, to feel part of it and hopefully to make some friends.
Opening and closing times Photograph: Ke Deng
The project can also be found at other Encore cafes in Bellahouston Leisure Centre, the Tollcross International Swimming Center, Kelvin Hall and Tramway.