Anne launches new venture after showing how chat clubs can help tackle loneliness at all ages

Anne Anderson (right), Founder of Chat Café Local and now The Chitter Chatter Club, with Michelle Venn, Home Services Advisor, Barchester Healthcare's Parley Place Care Home.

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: March 2, 2023 | Updated: 4th March 2023


It can affect people at any age but older people are especially vulnerable to social isolation.

Anne Anderson was determined to do something about it.

A year ago she started a chat club in a café.

One person attended.

And then word spread.

Twelve months later, Anne’s inspiration – Chat Café Local – has seen 1,050 lonely people who would never have left their homes join a chat club.

There are now 14 chat clubs in nine towns across Dorset, from Highcliffe to Weymouth, while more than 4,150 people have taken part.

Members wear pin badges, sit together at the ‘Happy to Chat’ table and have a good natter.

The social value of the clubs – a monetary amount measuring the social impact – is calculated at over £2.5 million.

At a party to mark the first anniversary, hosted by Barchester Healthcare’s Kings Park Care Home in Ferndown, Dorset High Sheriff Sybil Fine King heaped praise on Anne and her volunteer helpers.

She said: “You make a huge difference in people’s lives and you do it without expectation of reward.

“That’s the epitome of selflessness and simply wonderful so thank you all for what you do.”

Anne, who has now left Chat Café Local to launch a new venture, The Chitter Chatter Club based around care homes, said: “It’s not just been me.

“I’ve had the idea and tried my hardest to do things but I’ve had some amazing volunteers that have hosted the chat clubs.

“Everyone has played a part whether they’ve hosted a table, given leaflets out, taken people to the doctors, library or home after a chat club.

“We’ve built little communities across Dorset which people love but have also had some lovely nature days out with Sybil [High Sheriff] investing money through her Nature Heals Seed Fund.

“People are coming and approaching me and saying ‘I would love a chat club in my town’.

“I’ve found them a café and they’re just running it on their own independently.

“Ten, 15, maybe 50 people come over one month to a café. It’s incredible.

“We see miracles every day.

“Chat clubs encouraged a stroke victim with regaining her speech.

“Four people have been saved from suicide.

“Cancer victims who don’t attend a cancer club, feel they belong.

“Widows smile around tables.

“Young laugh and chat with old.

“Most of the time you can hardly get a word in edgeways.

“But most of all, everyone is so lovely.”

Among those taking part is Malcolm Plant, 78, from Christchurch.

He said: “I think it’s fantastic.

“The NHS have only realised in the last few years that loneliness is a problem.

“There really is a need for something like this.”

Anne said: “We are in the process of changing culture.

“This is all about building transformative relationships.

“All I hear at chat club is people telling their stories and just healing.

“Empathy kills shame.

“People in loneliness are locked in shame.”

Anne’s new venture – The Chitter Chatter Club – is looking for business sponsorship as well as practical help and support, including IT assistance.

She said: “Loneliness is everywhere.

“I’ve got a brilliant relationship with Barchester and thought why not have chat clubs in care homes?

“I don’t see why people in a care home shouldn’t have the opportunity to make friends.

“People from the community aren’t going into care homes but I would love everyone to visit the residents and have a nice chat.

“It will build up their health and wellbeing.

“We’ll keep a few chat clubs in the community, in the cafes, but concentrate on the care homes.”

Anne, 60, who is a devout Christian and attends Coastline Vineyard Church in Charminster, Bournemouth, said: “I believe God has given me the job to bring back some love, hope and fellowship.

“I think things come into your life for a reason.

“I just feel so excited about the future.”

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