Stephen Tomkins explores an awardwinning social cafe project
Stocksbridge is a town built on steelmaking, ten miles north of the centre of Sheffield. In 2015, Sheffield Council decided the town should open a social cafe, as this had worked in other parts of the city, leaving it to the community to develop a vision for how it might work in Stocksbridge. Christ Church, the United Reformed/Methodist church in the town, took a lead in the project, using its community hall.
The need that the church wanted to meet was isolation, Stocksbridge being a small community, from which it is not always easy to get into the city. Also, younger men were regularly causing disruption in the library, so the church wanted to provide a place where they might develop their social skills and find out more about other activities.
The Meeting Place opened in 2016, with weekly sessions on Monday mornings. Members might have a coffee, read the paper, have a chat with volunteers and other members. Some of them help with the garden area outside, or with other jobs around the church. The craft and games tables are popular. There are quizzes and bingo. Someone from a local bank visits regularly to offer financial advice, and the Meeting Place is an information hub for the local credit union. Someone from the library brings in books. Occasionally, a ukulele band performs. Members include men and women across a broad age range…
Stephen Tomkins is Editor of Reform. The Meeting Place won joint first prize, worth £2,000, in the United Reformed Church Community Project Awards 2018, an initiative sponsored by Congregational. Due to lockdown, winners of the 2020 Community Project Awards will be announced at the URC General Assembly in 2021 and reported in the September 2021 edition of Reform. www.urc.org.uk/awards
This is an extract from an article published in the October 2020 edition of Reform