A Living Room for the Public

By Dr Nina Browne

It was seven weeks before she came in. She walked past, twice a day, taking her son to nursery. Then she thought, ‘why not?’. A sign on the wall said ‘put a pinny on’. She thought it was a joke. But she thought again. The nerves went when someone passed it to her. 

It looks like a Café. It has food and drink, sofas. It’s a Public Living Room, set up by Camerados a social movement to end isolation. It is across the road from a busy shopping centre in the suburb of Cowley, Oxford. There are a lot of places to get a cup of tea in Cowley. But here, as well as a cup of tea, the customer tell me it's something different. Something that keeps them coming back. 

In a clinic, people walk past every day, people who want to see me, people who feel I can help them. Why? I’m a clinical psychologist. I speak to a lot of people who come in, not many who don't. Maybe I should?

Camerados are helping me to figure out where I am going wrong. They have created a space in Oxford that attracts everyone. Whoever they are, however they feel they seem to be walking in. Whatever they are doing, I need to learn from it.

We professionals are notoriously slow to respond. The Living Room changes daily. With us it is a take it or leave it service. With Camerados it is a take something but give something experience. In the clinic there is an evaluation form. In a Living Room there are conversations with the people that use it, daily conversations about how to make the place better.

What makes a stressed out Mum, lonely and isolated in a new city, seek help?

Why don't we ask her? 


To join the movement go to www.camerados.org.uk

Live in Oxford? pop in or contact izzy@camerados.org