The latest addition to a growing network of “chatter and natter” cafés where you just drop in and meet people is an eatery in the middle of Brent Cross shopping centre.
The Bakers and Baristas outlet is now putting out a “chat and natter” table every Tuesday, 10am to 12pm, hosted by a volunteer, where shoppers stop and drop for a break and just talk to anyone around, over a cuppa and maybe a wicked slice of cake.
“It’s not about making lifelong friends,” founder Alexandra Hoskyn tells you at the ‘natter’ table. “It’s just having good old fashioned human interaction.”
Alexandra set up a charity to tackle loneliness after a miserable day at a supermarket café with her baby where she noticed customers weren’t talking to each other.
Simply putting ‘chatter and natter’ signs on tables created space for people to talk, she found.
Anyone can join in, young and old, grandparents, mums and dads out shopping with the kids and even babies.
But the idea was in danger of being stifled when the Covid emergency started and cafés had to shut during lockdown.
Alex’s Chatty Café charity wasn’t going to stay silent on the issue and started weekly befriending phone-calls and Zoom virtual café sessions. It got her an OBE in 2021 for “services tackling loneliness” during lockdown.
She’s still at it, urging more cafés, pubs, garden centres, libraries and now Brent Cross shopping centre to make some space for people to sit and chat.
There’s little excuse to stay isolated, so word of mouth has it.