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Plug pulled on vital community lifeline

By Val Sweeney


A LIFELINE café is to close before Christmas, much to the dismay of the local community.

The pioneering Archie Café, with its soft play area and hub for healthcare and local information, was hailed as “brilliant” when it opened in Hilton Community Centre in Inverness five years ago.

It also raised money for the Highland Children’s Unit at Raigmore Hospital, opened in 2016 after a £2 million appeal by the Archie Foundation in conjunction with the Inverness Courier.

The foundation has now announced the café will close on December 21 after running at a loss.

Disappointed customers include mums who say the decision has come as a bolt out of the blue.

Kirsty Rose meets other mums there when she attends the centre with son Brodie (3) for a pre-school gym class.

“We have a blether in a nice environment and the kids are just a few feet away from us,” she said. “It is reasonably priced, the staff are fabulous and it is totally geared up for kids.”

Mother-of-two Shaunna Leitch said it was vital to the community.

“It was a lifeline to me when I had my second little girl as it meant we could get out of the house,” she said. “Often the old folk would speak to my girls and I’m sure it brightened their day. We were maybe the only people they spoke to that day and likewise for lonely mums.”

Four part-time staff are set to lose their jobs at the café and David Wood, the Archie Foundation’s chief executive, said the decision had been taken with regret.

And he also added: “We are aware that there is local ambition to keep the café open beyond Christmas and we would happily leave the soft play and kitchen equipment to support any new organisation or business taking on the café.”

The café is operated by catering firm Cobbs whose director Fraser Campbell was surprised by the decision.

“A lot of people loved using it but I have to agree with them if it was running at a loss,” he said.

A spokesman for High Life Highland said it was in talks with the centre’s management committee regarding continued catering provision.

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