Reflections on Renfrewshire Conversation Café

28th January 2019

Robert Stevenson, SRN Network Officer for the West of Scotland, reflects on the success of a recent Conversation Café’ held in Paisley at the end of last year.

What do SRN and Paulo Nutini have in common? Well, now they have both had sell out “gigs” in Paisley Town Hall!

Around 130 people packed the room for the Recovery in Renfrewshire event held in Paisley Town Hall on the 6th November 2018. In fact, it was so busy that at one stage I thought we were going to have to turn people away at the door!

The event was planned and organised by a steering group involving representatives from SRN, Recovery Across Mental Health (RAMH), Acumen and the Mental Health Network (Greater Glasgow). A planning group of staff from the partner organisations and people being supported by services in the region developed the programme for the day. This group agreed that the event should be an opportunity for participants to “celebrate, connect and collaborate” around good mental health and recovery.

Food for thought and eating!

The event started off with some opening remarks from Stephen McLellan, RAMH’s Chief Executive and Caroline Paterson on behalf of the Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership.

The main part of the day took the form of a Conversation Café using the CHIME framework as the theme. Participants were asked to consider three questions linked to different elements of the CHIME framework:

  1. Who matters to me?  – Connections
  2. What matters to me? – Meaning and Identity
  3. What do I want to do in the future? – Hope, Optimism and Empowerment

The morning session ended on a high with two very talented women reading some of their own poetry. Suzanne Baines read a beautiful poem – A Road Well Travelled – that she had written specially for the event. This was followed by Caroline Richardson, a regular participant in the Write to Recovery group facilitated by RAMH, who read a selection of her recent writing.

Both Suzanne and Caroline provided participants with food for thought. This was matched in quality of the food provided for lunch by a team of volunteers from Paisley’s very own Sunshine Recovery Café (links to facebook). Everyone enjoyed the lunch particularly the soup which was so fresh that the vegetables were still being cut an hour before lunch was due to be served!

Story sharing, conversations and music

The afternoon kicked off with more recovery story sharing. John Tuite*, another Write to Recovery group member, read some of his own short stories that were both funny and poignant. This was followed by a short video in which a number of people shared their own recovery stories. The video was filmed and edited by Peter O’Rourke a peer volunteer with RAMH and Acumen.

After another round of small group discussions, the event was brought to a rousing conclusion with a performance by Renfrewshire’s very own drumming group The Buddy Beat. This included a lot of audience participation which meant everyone left on a high note.

Communities, Collaboration, Conversations

The feedback after the event was very positive with many participants saying that there had been a real buzz in the room. Many welcomed the opportunity to talk about their own recovery journeys as well as listening to others who had experienced mental health problems.

Personally, I thought it was a great example of effective collaboration with lots of people  contributing to make the event a success. People seemed to enjoy the event as well as finding it useful and informative. Perhaps, this was best summed up by one of the participants who said to me as he was leaving

That was great, I really enjoyed meeting other people who have had similar experiences and hearing their stories.  When’s the next one?


A full report on the event will be published in early 2019. The Recovery Renfrewshire Planning Group is continuing to meet and will be using the feedback from the event to plan future activities and events.


(Photographs by Peter O’ Rourke.)

*John Tuite has sadly passed away since this event. Are thoughts are with all who knew him.


Talk to us

SRN would love to hear about the work you are doing in Scotland, your hopes for change and how we can work together. Contact one of our Network Officers:


Robert Stevenson (West):

Holly Hendry (North):

Lesley Smith (East):