A cafe with morals
13 February 2019 | North West England
Community cafe and music venue offers supportive space for local folk.
Meet David Plumtree, founder of a pioneering co-op cafe and community hub where dozens of mums and dads regularly meet for popular “baby sling library” sessions as well other events aimed at ‘giving back’ and supporting the local community.
The group meet at Cafe Indie in Scunthorpe to share advice about using slings to carry babies and trade techniques, and there is a wide choice of slings and carriers available to try, swap or hire.
“It’s crazy, when the class started I thought that maybe three or four people might come along,” laughs David, 37. “But it is always heaving. It gets very noisy! But a good noise. We have lots of dads who come too, it’s a very inclusive environment.
“What I love about it most is how it offers peer-support and how many friendships have developed. Not only that, from that, some of the mums have gone on to offer a regular breastfeeding support group. Mums will come in to volunteer and offer one-to-one sessions.”
Cafe INDIEpendent has an impressive 10,000 sq ft of space spread across four floors. There are 150 members and 30 regular volunteers. On the ground floor the community cafe offers affordable and delicious meals. There is also a children’s play area and piano which anyone can play.
“It works because the children can go off while their parents relax and not worry about them,” explains David.
“I remember when my daughters were young going to cafes and worrying that they were making too much noise, or they were wanting to wriggle or toddle off. At Cafe INDIE that isn’t an issue as we have such a great, creative and industrial sized space.”
As well as the cafe there are always several classes going on - everything from crocheting, to yoga and herbal medicine. And every other month you can join Cafe Scientific where for the price of a coffee you can join an expert for a science Q&A workshop.
“If a member of the community comes along and wants to try something out I’d be open to that,” says David. “We are a springboard to community development.”
On the mezzanine level there is a library and an exhibition space while the basement is where the magic happens. At night the building turns into a community arts and event space, generating income so that Cafe INDIE can host their free events and classes.
“I would describe it as a cafe with morals by day and in the evening we turn down the lights and it transforms into an arts and music venue.
“People tended to go out of town rather than come in. We wanted to provide something for people who wanted to do something cultural.
“There’s the start of a bit of an independent scene here. There was a real gap for people who were a bit alternative. People say this should be in London, I say, ‘nah’ it should be here in Scunthorpe. We try and remove barriers and bring people together.”
Since its opening in February 2013, Cafe Indie has also worked to address local needs and social problems such as high unemployment among young people. It offers volunteer positions to young people to work in the café so they can gain the skills they need for further employment, and has a ‘pay it forward’ coffee system so that customers can donate a coffee to homeless people that are welcomed in.
Says David: “We have worked with over 600 young people over the years and offer work experience, training, and support. They can learn all about food service, food hygiene and customer services. All great employability skills. We also work with a team of youth workers to see how we can get them back on track. We are all about striving forwards.”
Cafe INDIEpendent is supported is supported by Power to Change – the independent trust that supports community businesses in England. Community businesses are locally rooted, community-led, trading for community benefit and making life better for local people.