Stockbridge community café CafeLife was officially reopened this week by the Queen of Crime, Val McDermid.
The author, who has sold over 17 million books across the globe which have been translated into more than 40 languages, cut the red ribbon to signify the grand reopening of the café located on Cheyne Street.
“I think a place like this community hub is great. It’s a café where people can meet and it’s completely accessible so nobody has to worry about stairs or anything like that and it’s for all ages,” Val states. “They have great menus, great coffees and has such a friendly atmosphere. There’s always people in, it’s never empty and it’s always so welcoming.”
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“Every community should have a resource like CafeLife. We’re lucky to have it. The LifeCare centre, and all the vital services provided by the charity, help support serious issues such as isolation and loneliness. I’m proud to be supporting LifeCare in it’s important work”
CafeLife is run by Edinburgh charity LifeCare, where all proceeds from café sales go towards the organisation’s vital care services for older people living across Edinburgh.
Due to the pandemic, CafeLife had to close its doors which came as a real blow to their loyal customers who rely on coming in for a coffee and a chat in the most accessible café in the area, with plenty of space for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
The café team took the opportunity during their closure to redecorate the interior through emergency funding which they have also recently received to refurbish the outside seating area of the café.
The kitchen staff also had the chance to create a new and improved menu to be tailored to all dietary needs and requirements. As well as the popular café, CafeLife also have function room to host classes for customers such as history classes, guitar lessons, Spanish, and dance, as well as hosting events such as birthday parties.
The café’s grand reopening took place this afternoon with devoted customers stepping foot in their favorite café for the first time in two years.
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Catherine Westbrook was excited to attend today’s event, having frequently visited the café for coffee before attending life-drawing classes. “It was really great to come in here and have a cup of coffee while out doing the shopping. I’ve been coming here for three or four years.
“You can go to Starbucks and pay £3 or £4 for a coffee whereas here it’s £2.50 and tastes just as great! I also monthly contribute to here as well. I’ve made so many friends here from my life drawing class. And the classes here are for everybody, you don’t have to be old to attend a class here. They have several levels of clubs here, the top level being the clubs that help those really struggling with dementia.”
Val McDermid fans also made their way to the café for a chance to meet and get their treasured books signed by their idol. Julie McKay, Jack Richardson, Carol Jackson, and Lynn Grant used to visit the café every month for a catch-up prior to the pandemic. Julie, who has brought her two Jack Russells, Archie and Toby, along to this dog-friendly hub, says “It’s quite a good place to visit because it’s quite central for all of us, and the food is good! We like it here, don’t we all? We used to meet for walks during lockdown but we didn’t see much of Jack.”
“Yes, and it was a beautiful time! Two years of bliss!” Jack jokes.
Lynn expresses her excitement about meeting Val McDermid and has brought her copy of her latest novel 1979 to be signed. “This book sort of took me back because I was at university in Glasgow in 1979 so a lot of the places that are mentioned in the book are places that I have been to.”
As well as the café providing food to the customers in the café, the kitchen staff also set up Meals on Wheels to help vulnerable people throughout lockdown. Chef Tony, who has been here for 16 years explains “Three months into the pandemic, I was asked to come back to do Meals on Wheels which was free for over 60s, so we did about one hundred meals a day for that. And we did that for a year. The food here is fresh and made every day, we don’t use packets, we don’t use tins, we just use fresh ingredients.”
“Now the community is starting to come back after the pandemic, it’s starting to get as busy as we were before the pandemic, which is good. We have a lot of regulars who are so happy to see us back open. And I think people are getting the confidence to come back again. It’s a large and spacious place and it’s not cramped. We have a lot of people in wheelchairs, in buggies, and with special needs in here because they feel safe as they have so much space.”
James Wells, the new Chief Executive Officer for Lifecare, says “I officially joined on June 1, I’ve been really impressed with the team, with the facilities we have, it’s such a nice place to come into. I think being a part of the community in Stockbridge is really important and a lot of what we do here supports people living with dementia across Edinburgh so it’s really important.”
“Every community should have facilities like this, it doesn’t have to be one of the big coffee stores. Coming out of lockdown, there has been so much isolation and inability to connect, so I think it’s great to have this resource here with the day centers but also reaching out to people at home with the Meals on Wheels service. I think we can be a leading provider of homecare services and a resource for the community to use.”