Who We Are
BAB is a partnership of individuals and organisations working together to reduce isolation and loneliness among older people in Bristol.
Hope Café was set up by Lawrence Weston Baptist Church as a way to use the physical space of the church and open it up for the community to enjoy. The café was first set up a few years ago, opening two mornings a week, welcoming parent’s after school drop-off with a light breakfast.
The community created a bright and welcoming space using local talent and a thrifty eye. “It was exciting how that part of the church came to life as each person contributed”, shares Bryony, one of the Hope Café volunteers and leads.
Although they managed to get a few regulars, business was patchy at times. The group did not feel like they had enough volunteers to keep the café going, so sadly they decided to pause their venture.
Through contact with Linkage Network, Bryony, Sue and John from Hope Café started conversations with Friends Ageing Better. FAB were exploring new ideas and locations for cafes, and the team was excited to start something in north Bristol. Following an initial meeting, it was decided that Hope Café would be a great place for a pilot.
The pilot stage held 5 sessions between the months of March and June. During this time, a new group of regulars started to attend the café, as well as a few FAB members who found out about it through the membership newsletter.
The catch up café has turned into a welcoming intergenerational space. Bryony says: “We are very delighted that many of the older people are coming and enjoyed it. I think it adds a really good dimension to say all ages, and we have toys out for the children, and the comfortable sofas for people who want to relax by the book corners. There is a variety of things.”
Sue adds: “It certainly helps people build friendships, we can see that from the few regulars that we have. And it’s a good space to meet somebody, we see that with the new mums that come. It’s hard to walk into somewhere on your own for the first time, but if you can arrange to meet someone at the café it’s not so daunting.”
Anecdotally, one of the regulars made an extraordinary effort of getting to the café after a short stay in hospital, as they just really didn’t want to miss it!
Challenges and Lessons Learned
The main challenge for this cafe has been reaching older people in the community who live in flats and residential homes. Leaflets in local shops and community spaces, as well as in local publications, has helped spread the word about the café, but has not necessarily reached everyone in the community.
Also, having a monthly meet up means reminding people of the next session is crucial. There was another event organised by another local community group on the same day targeting the same audience, so we had to negotiate having an extra session on another day to help promote the activity the partner organisation was hosting.
The times of the day when this activity happens is also quite important. Although it sounded like a good idea, most parents would not go to the café first thing in the morning after the school run. Bryony and Sue talked to people who attend the building for other activities regarding the best time and day of the week to have the café, and although there was no consensus about the best day of the week, people suggested that serving light bites at affordable prices during lunch times could be more popular.
The New Hope Café
Taking the all the learning gathered these last few months into consideration, the brilliant team of volunteers behind Hope Café are pleased to be welcoming once more. The café is open for lunch every 2nd Tuesday of each month (11am – 3pm), offering beverages, cakes and pastries, plus lunch. Come and visit this fantastic place in Lawrence Weston (117-119 Long Cross, Bristol BS11 0LT).
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