AN INITIATIVE aimed at reducing feelings of loneliness has been adopted in the Wee County following a successful trial in Falkirk.

The initiative, called The Welcome Café, was started by Jim Thompson and focuses on getting people of all ages chatting with a view to reducing the feeling of loneliness.

Cafes who are participating in the scheme will offer people a 'happy to share' card which they can put on their table so people know they are free to sit next to them with a view to chatting.

Following a huge uptake throughout the wider Forth Valley, Jim told the Advertiser he is hoping it will take off in Clacks after The Ladybird Tearooms and Asda agreed to take part.

Jim said: "The Welcome Café Community provides a space for people in cafés and restaurants to strike up a conversation with someone they don't know. It might be for five minutes while you drink a quick tea or coffee, or an hour of good conversation, it's entirely up to you.

"We're not trying to build friendships – just simple, spontaneous chat to create beneficial social contact and to maybe have a big impact on someone's day.

"I work for Falkirk Mental Health Association and as part of our service to combat isolation and loneliness, we adopted the Welcome Community Café project.

"The project aims to reduce loneliness and get people chatting but we do not use the word loneliness on any of our literature, preferring to use a positive message such as fancy a blether to encourage people of all ages to take part.

Currently, the scheme has been running in Falkirk for about seven months with the majority of the work being done by Jim going around and handing cards and posters to various eateries.

However, Jim now has a team of four volunteers to help and is now eyeing up Stirling with Waitrose the university and the Burgh Café already signing up.

Jim said: "I approached two cafes, The Ladybird Tearoom and Asda and they loved the idea and agreed to take part. I also have two volunteers willing to assist in the evaluation and implementation of the project.

"It is important to remember customers choose to take part only if they want to. Participating cafés and restaurants are contributing to the local community, encouraging good mental health and may even benefit from an increase in customers.

"We support welcome cafés by supplying the cards and materials and by working closely with staff to provide accurate evaluation of the project."

To find out more and to see which cafés and restaurants have joined the scheme, please visit