The Nite Cafe
The following article appears in the most recent edition of The Inquirer.
There are two sides to
At Bank Street Unitarian Chapel we had spent more time thinking about the daytime Bolton than the night time
This was a question we began to ask ourselves as a group of diverse Christian churches in the town centre of
In fact the needs are great. As in any other town,
What was needed was a safe space, a place where people could sober up, have a cup of coffee, wait for a friend, or speak to someone who was prepared to listen. What was needed was a “Night Café.” But where could such a café be situated? The answer was obvious. It had to be Bank Street Chapel. Our location is the closest to the main strip of bars through the town centre.
So after a long period of planning the Night Café finally launched for a pilot scheme last July. Based in
Our experience over the summer has shown us that this ministry can have a really positive effect on people’s safety and wellbeing. We have had a large variety of people, in a variety of states! There have been people who needed someone to talk to after an argument with a partner; people who needed to sleep it off and sober up for an hour; people who had become separated from their friends and needed help to connect with them, and people who were quite happy to have a coffee and a chat about every thing under the sun, putting the world to rights. We have also handed out over 750 packets of “spikeys” – small plastic inserts for bottles to prevent them being spiked with drugs.
The project has been affected by one incident that happened on only our second week of operation. The pub next door to the chapel was the scene of the fatal stabbing of a man, Paul Gilligan. We were all shocked and saddened by the news of this killing, but we did not know about the incident until the next morning. In the following weeks many volunteers spent time at the front of the chapel, by the pub, where a make-shift shrine grew up to honour the young man who died. Many people needed to talk and the Night Café volunteers offered candles to light and a listening ear.
This incident certainly demonstrated the worst that can happen in bars at night, but it would be wrong to see such a tragic event as typical for the thousands of people out in
The pilot scheme is now over and we are in a period of reviewing what we can learn from this initial project. I am both proud, and concerned, to say that the majority of volunteers came from
The story of the Night Café is an on-going one. We are now reviewing the pilot so we can learn from the project and then re-launch it next year. We would like to see the project expand to include a more pro-active presence on the streets, possibly with “Street Angels” who can chat to people on the streets and let them know that the café is there if they need it. We know that there is a huge need for this ministry and we are committed to its continuation and expansion.
What can other Unitarian communities learn from our experience? First, to do something effectively it’s necessary to work with others. Luckily for us, Bank Street Chapel has always been accepted as a full member of Christians Together in our locality. It is because of such good links between churches and other groups that this kind of ministry can take place. Secondly, social responsibility work has to start at your doorstep. At our doorstep on
This article was written with much supporting information provided by Adrienne Tonge, a leading volunteer for the Night Café and member of Bank Street Chapel, and Mike Aspinal, leading volunteer and United Reformed Church ministry student.