Conversations with… Alex Hoskyn of The Chatty Café Scheme (Subject: Working to End Loneliness)

As a writer, I’ve done a lot of work to try and raise awareness of the issue of loneliness in today’s society. I have written posts for my blog on the subject and also wrote a piece for the charity Campaign to End Loneliness’ latest initiative, Be More Us.

Alex Hoskyn is someone who has taken the idea of eradicating loneliness to the next level.

A social worker and mother of two, Alex founded The Chatty Café Scheme with the hope of providing those in need of social interaction a safe place to meet, talk and experience some much needed human connection.

Where did the idea for The Chatty Cafe come from?

I was sat in my local Sainsburys café with my 4 month old son and missing interaction with other adults. I looked around and saw an elderly lady sat alone and an elderly man and his carer on another table. Then I thought we all looked like we could do with a chat over our brew and what a shame it was we weren’t all sat at the same table!

That was when inspiration struck.

I mulled the idea over for a year before I took the plunge and made a website, got some posters and table stands designed and took information packs into some local cafes. I was surprised how happy people were to try it – no hard sell was needed!

How does The Chatty Cafe help people?

Loneliness has been proven to be as dangerous to health as smoking, so our aim to reduce people’s sense of loneliness as much as we can.

The Chatty Café provides a safe space for people to talk to other people if they so wish. Our Chatter and Natter tables aren’t just in cafes, but also pubs, community centres, libraries – wherever people feel comfortable enough to talk to others.

Why do you think that loneliness is such a problem in today’s society?

It seems like many people have been lost in their phones and laptops for years and are looking for connection with another human being.  People are more likely than ever to move away from where they grew up, we work longer hours, we commute further to jobs. You can now go to the bank or supermarket and not speak to anyone.

What can people do to help stop the spread of loneliness?

There are lots of things people can do. I’d start by suggesting looking around your community for what is already on offer. At the moment, there is huge focus loneliness so there are some fantastic ideas and events like craft sessions and knitting groups for people to attend. People tend to chat when they are doing something creative, so looking for something like that is great.

How does it feel to know that the work you do makes a huge, positive impact on people’s lives?

I still can’t quite believe that my little idea has grown and expanded to over 1400 venues across the world including Australia, Poland, Canada and Gibralter.

What has been your proudest moment since starting work with The Chatty Cafe?

We won 3 awards last year, which is a huge boost and reminded us that what we are doing is actually wanted and helping people. On a more personal note, I love receiving emails from people telling me how their local Chatter and Natter table has helped them.

If I want to support The Chatty Cafe, what can I do?

If you would like to sign up your venue, please go to www.thechattycafescheme.co.uk to “join the scheme”. If you would like to visit a Chatter and Natter table, go to “find my table” and put in your postcode or town and it will bring up venues close to you.

What advice would you give to someone who is struggling with loneliness?

Reach out to your doctor or friend and try to open up about how you are feeling. There is so much help out there.

If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?

My glass is always half full!

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