Melville Hill street café
The following blog has been written by a Community Builder in Torbay, one of Nurture Development’s Learning Sites, and was posted to the dedicated blog site, Riviera Renaissance. It offers a fantastic glimpse into the work of a Community Builder and demonstrates the power that creating welcoming bumping spaces can have on connecting people, reducing isolation and building community.
After an initial meeting with some residents of Melville Hill, it became apparent that one of the issues in the area was a divide between residents and the occupants of a nearby hostel. They felt if they had a platform to engage, then they would like nothing more than to welcome them and make them feel like a valuable part of the community and make people realise that there are friends out there.
Coming up with an idea to get this community together was a challenge; a couple of previous walk rounds made us realise that maybe engaging with the local residents just by chance meeting, may not be the right approach. So myself and Katherine sat down together and ran through some ideas, after a while we came up with the idea of a Pop Up Café where we would have tables and chairs, bacon rolls and mince pies, along with hot drinks, to try and to talk to residents and also to try and encourage a chance meeting of some of the people we were trying to reach.
So on a Sunday we took over a little corner of a local car park, set up tables and chairs, also cookers and kettles and we were open! It didn’t take long for us to get noticed by a passer-by on his way to the shop, we explained what we were up to and asked him to drop by on his way back for his roll and coffee. Before we knew it we had more people arrive and we started talking and asking them what they were passionate about and what were their likes and interests? From this other discussions were taking place, a little community gathered around a little café.
Soon the guy on his way back from the shop came over and we had a chat with him, we again told him what we were up to, he replied to our questions by mentioning that he doesn’t really see or talk to anybody; he didn’t go to the pub as he was in recovery so found it hard to connect. Another gentleman joined in the conversation and shared the view that he felt there were problems in the community because of drug taking and the transient population, both guys admitted to walking past each other nearly on a daily basis without acknowledgement and that having an opportunity to meet and chat was great. I then went off to talk with someone else leaving the two guys chatting and after about 20 minutes I returned to find them enjoying mince pies and chatting about fishing, which turned out to be a shared passion and by the end of the afternoon they had arranged to meet for a trip out together.
Overall the event was a huge success; people were really excited about talking to new faces and showed a massive interest in continuing the progress made in the Pop Up Café. After this success, the next step for us is to arrange with the community for another engagement event, where a few more connections can be made and hopefully some community projects will follow.