A community ‘chat room’ has been set up in a rural town in Cumbria with the aim of tackling loneliness.

Based in Alston, a rural and somewhat isolated town in East Cumbria, The Chat Room CIC launched on Saturday 1 October, opposite the Town Hall.

The launch was attended by Eden District Councilor Lissie Sharp who kindly cut the ribbon to declare it officially open.

She said she hoped it would be very beneficial for locals and visitors.

News and Star: Cllr Sharp cutting the ribbonCllr Sharp cutting the ribbon (Photo: Jean and Pauline de la Mare)

It’s not a cafe, the only food offered being a cookie, but it’s simply a place where people can come in and chat over a cup of tea or coffee.

John de la Mare, with his wife Pauline, created and managed it.

John explained where the idea came from: “It came from the pandemic.

“One of the things that was always mentioned was the resulting loneliness.”

John said the loneliness pandemic was particularly felt in Alston due to its relative remoteness.

He added that their main clientele so far has been mainly pensioners, despite having only been open for four days.

John continued, “We are church members here and have been going to church since we were in our twenties.

“We are from Guernsey, we moved here in 2015.

“We have always been involved in what the church does.

John explained that the church itself often acts as a social hub, so it’s related.

The chat room is also a place for those who are cold and may be struggling to pay to keep their home warm, to stay warm in a safe space.

CIC Chat Room is registered with a national group called Warm Welcome.

The chat room is completely free and is open from Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The place will be occupied by volunteers who will be happy to welcome you with a cup of tea and a smile.

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