The Goodwill Cafe
The Vision & History It was 2011, the era of the Big Society and Nick Clegg had revealed how much we were paying on the interest of our debts as a country - Britain was broken and we needed to pull together.
In my understanding of the power of building community, I came up with the vision of a grassroots cafe run by the community for the community to cultivate fellowship and creative solutions; and regenerate lives.
Simply run by the cooperative of people popping in and organised by the spirit of goodwill, I figured that if I we could create and maintain enough of a buzz then people were going to want to be involved.
I envisioned a positive place for people to come together to eat, drink and be merry; maybe buy some second-hand clothes, books and music, play games etc; a place to "relate and create" and generally feel nourished, uplifted and inspired to pass the goodwill on.
And then the opportunity to manifest my idea came up at the “Celebrate Women” festival, held at the Sun Street chapel back in 2012, hosted by Stina Falle (artist/councillor) and Linda King (artist).
The café was managed by myself but luckily people were enthused to join in and help with making cakes etc as I’m more of a morale officer and volunteer coordinator than a caterer(!) and it was a wonderful success. Stina's husband, Des Harris (also a district councillor and gardener) commented that it was the positivity of the cafe that held the whole festival together!
It then had another couple of opportunities to exist at a pop-up cafe on Catherine Hill during the Frome Independent Market with a special guest appearance from "Dave’s Royal Vegan Cakes", at a bazaar I organised at the Sun Street chapel on the fringe of the Independent Market and under the guise of the "Link Up Cafe" for a while at Holy Trinity church in Frome.
"There is something more valuable inside of you
than all the money in the world" - Prem Rawat
I was actually seeking paid work when I set up the Link Up Cafe but after praying for a sign, I stumbled across a quote by philosopher, Prem Rawat, which proclaimed that "there is something more valuable inside of you than all the money in the world", so I ditched the jobcentre to set up the cafe at which I found profound paid work with Moss Naylor Young (town and transport-planners) and Fabulous Frome!
But then this is the intention for the hub – a place where by the power of building community, goodwill and creative solutions can meet the needs of whoever turns up! David Warburton MP also came to see what we were doing during his initial campaign.
In 2015, we moved the cafe back to Des Harris and Stina Falle's residence after they were voted in as district councillors. After starting out in Des and Stina's wonderfully rustic studio with wood-burner at the back of their house, they then decided to move it into their living/dining room because it was helping Stina's project, ARC (Arts Resource Centre) to take shape, so she needed the studio for her first resident artist, Boann Lambert and the bed upstairs became officially registered to house a homeless person.
We then spent some wonderfully sunny afternoons in their generous garden, often with live music and then finished for the summer with home-made scones and lemonade, generously made by Stina.
Where are we headed? I'm really not sure at the moment as the cafe has been closed since the Summer of 2017 as I was heading off to America with Moss Naylor Young to, amongst other things, visit the "JBJ Soul Kitchen" which offers "community dining with dignity". It's a fruit of the JBJ Soul Foundation, set up by John Bon Jovi, which also also helps to house people, so I'm keen to learn how we can combine the efforts of government and empowered individuals "for the common good"! Find out more here.
Ideally, we'll find a venue centrally where people can pop in for a cuppa and get warm, jam a little music and put the world to rights! I've even designed a cafe-bar-type venue which it could evolve into, maybe similar to the Co-Exist enterprise in Stokes Croft, Bristol? I shall wait for the signs...