- Anna Dyson
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I am aware that followers of the blog may not actually really know what happens on a Wednesday morning down at the caf. I have often referred to each Weds having a story, and this week’s was no different. But I thought it was worth just taking a step back and describing a bit of an overview so those of you who missed out can perhaps picture it in your minds…
We open at 10 but often have a couple of people drifting in before we officially open, and they more often than not help set up; we ‘pop up’ in a youth centre, so the table tennis table is wheeled out, the pool tables protected, and everything that creates the TLC ambience is put up and out. The urn goes on and usually before 10am the first pot of coffee has brewed. Delicious.
We get a huge variety of people coming in and we work very hard to create a sense that when you walk into our space, you are welcomed as an absolute equal and individual. We want to create a safe space where you are the best version of yourself; and we try to do that by being warm and welcoming, and of course offering coffee, tea, toast and cake! A note about that: as much of our food and drink is donated. Either by individuals who fancied baking, friends who forgot to cancel the milk, or who had leftovers from a party. We also receive regular donations from one cafe in particular; Taste in Oakwood. Therefore we are able and proud to offer a ‘pay as you feel’ policy; there is a donations pot for people to give anonymously. This money goes towards the general running costs of TLC as well as savings for our big plans for the future (watch this space!!)
Behind the scenes, we have had conversations about whether we need music or not, and I’m proud to say that, without being too cheesy about it, the people chatting is the music. I am most proud of TLC when I stop and look around, mid morning, and small groups of people are chatting. I know they didn’t arrive together, and more often than not, they had not ever met before. That is what I wanted to create when I set about this project a year ago. Of course there is more we can be doing, and of course we are not getting it right all of the time (it took me three weeks not to burn the toast!) but a sure sign of our success is that each week we have regulars, and we’ve always had at least one new face too…
By 12.30 we start packing up. Those still there often stay to help, and by 1pm everything TLC has been squirrelled away or returned to my car, and The Hub is ready to be invaded by the youth club that evening.
So I can proudly report that my vision of community building over coffee and cake, that seemed like a crazy idea a year ago, is really happening every Wednesday in Harehills. If you haven’t already, and are able, please do join us!