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Stornoway-based Third Sector Hebrides has launched the first “Camerados” Public Living Room in the Highlands and Islands.

The Camerados Public Living Room came into use this week; a public space for local people to connect with one another and find support during tough times. 

Based at the Third Sector Hebrides building at 30 Francis Street, the teams at Volunteering Hebrides and Third Sector Hebrides have been working hard to create a welcoming space, somewhere people can pop in for a cuppa and a chat with others and to get some light relief from day-to-day life.

Chief Executive, Tina Macleod said, “We are thrilled to be working with the Camerados national body to open the first Public Living Room in Stornoway. 

"Times have been tough for people in the Western Isles with the pandemic and now the cost-of-living crisis, people have been hit really hard. 

"I hope that the Public Living Room in Stornoway will be a place where anyone can take a break from their daily worries, have a chat and feel a sense of connection. Sometimes that’s all we need to help us to keep going.” 

Public Living Rooms have been springing up in communities across the UK. They are open to everyone and are set up by local people who are part of the Camerados movement.

They are spaces where people can relax, connect with others and be themselves. Those who come to a Public Living Room get a warm welcome, a cup of tea and a feeling of community. What they’ll never get is judgement or anyone trying to fix them.  

Camerados Co-ordinator, David Morrison, explains, “We're not just in a cost-of-living crisis right now, we're in a cost-of-connection crisis too. Public living rooms are all about creating spaces for people to connect and we’re delighted to be part of this movement. And while these are undoubtedly challenging times for so many people, getting together and looking out for each other really can make all the difference!"

Anyone can be a Camerado, whether they decide to set up a Public Living Room themselves or just pop in to one for a chat and a cuppa. What Camerados all have in common is that they try to stick to six simple ideas for getting along with others.  These include disagreeing respectfully, mixing with people unlike themselves and having a bit of a laugh. Camerados believe that genuine social change comes from communities themselves and that it’s by pulling together that we can heal division and help each other through difficult times. 

Officially opening Camerados, MSP Alasdair Allan said, “It’s great to see Camerados getting a foothold in the Highlands and Islands.  There is a real need for places where people can meet in a warm, welcoming place.  Camerados is all of these things and more, so I wish their new base in Stornoway every success.”

The first Public Living Room was set up in Sheffield in 2016 and now they can be found across the UK in public spaces such as disused shops and as pop-ups in town centres, as well as in hospitals, universities, libraries, community centres and cafes. They have also sprung up outside of the UK in Baltimore, Auckland New Zealandand in Freetown in Sierra Leone. 

Camerados is now open from 11am-4pm every Monday, Wednesday & Friday at 30 Francis Street, Stornoway and welcomes everyone. 

More about Camerados in on their website: https://camerados.org/