As we all might already know, the fastest and easiest way is to leave a donation either in cash on the day of the event or whenever through our Open Collective account (https://opencollective.com/solidarity-cafe).
But this, being a solidarity cafe, will always require the help of its own community. So, while money can be helpful in some cases, what is essential to the cafe is that we all put in it as much or as little work we can do to let it run and run and run and fly!
Before going on, since we mentioned the donations, let’s clarify what happens with them for whoever doesn’t know it.
We give most of what we get to Halkevi, the Kurdish Community Centre in Dalston which so kindly host us. Then, we keep the rest mostly to buy food or equipment in “emergency cases” since most of the food is rescued and we kind of have all we need (for now) in terms of equipment.
Anyway, let’s dig in.
Before the cafe
As we just mentioned, most of the food we cook is rescued, meaning is food that would otherwise be wasted. And guess what? We waste sooooo much food in London every day.
There are different ways you could rescue food to bring to the cafe:
- Skipping: the always gold never old dumpster diving, which doesn’t mean you have to jump into any gigantic bin (unless you want to). Most of those fancy organic shops/cafes/whatnot in gentrified London leave their rubbish bags full of “unsold” goods right outside their doors. The secret is to find the best spots/shops nearby your area and find out the right timing to get those goods. You have a (sometimes short) window between their closing time and the arrival or the rubbish council van for the nightly pick up. So, yeah, do your recces. It is loads of fun!
- Donations: you might go do your shopping at your local grocery place regularly and you might know them as they know you. Well, if you’ve built a relationship with a shopkeeper (or you want to build one), you can try to ask them if they would save you the food wastage of the days before the cafe so you can go to collect it and then bring it to us! Keep in mind not everyone is willing or happy to donate food waste. As bad as it might sound, some would rather just throw it than give it to you. Yes, it’s happened to us many times.
- Apps: we’re using the plural, but we actually know of one so far to be fair. It’s called Olio and, yeah, there are conflicting opinions about it, but you’re of course free to make up your mind about it and decide what work best for you. What the app does is connect shops to local volunteers who collect or their food wastage to then distribute it to whoever is on the app asking for it. The shops involved are generally big chains, not your local grocery store, so it’s a game of quantity here.
It is possible to bring donations the week before the cafe if a pick up can be arranged, but it would be ideal to just bring the food on Saturday morning before the cooking session starts.
On the day of the event
We can try to split the day in four sections: cooking, setup, the cafe, closing.
Our cooking session starts at 10am and generally finishes around the time the cafe starts at 2pm. In case we run out of food a little too soon, there might be some quick cooking on the go during the event.
Once everyone is (or most of the people are) in and we have all of the rescue food on our tables, there are generally a couple of coordinators (even though everyone is more than welcome to brainstorm) who decide what the dishes of the day are going to be and if we have enough food or a market run is needed to buy something extra.
Once the menu is written down, tasks are divided and the adventure starts!
There is loads of chopping as well as loads of chatting.
Boiling, roasting, baking or frying depending on the day. It is the most time consuming task, but it is also loads of fun to cook altogether. You might also end up learning a couple of cool recipes in the meantime.
Starting from 12pm, we need to setup the space before everyone arrives!
Here you can find a checklist of the main things we need to do:
- Setup the “dining tables”, generally two parallel long rows in front of the projector/workshop area;
- Setup the infoshop, which is generally a couple of tables put next to the entrance, covered with all the beautiful zines, stickers and posters we have on offer on the day and our donation bucket as cherry on top;
- If we have the items, find a space amongst or next to the infoshop to setup a free clothes and/or free binders section. There should be at least one person assigned as a reference in case anyone need help with choosing a binder;
- Setup the food and drinks tables, generally three long tables and a small one aligned in front of the kitchen counter, with the small being the further from the entrance;
- Post-it time! Well, we don’t generally use post-its, but we make loads of signs on the day. We need at least two for the gender neutral toilets and one for every dish that comes out of the kitchen, with ingredients and allergens on it if possible. We need signs for our infoshop as well as any other free shop, a sign for that explains donations can be made in cash or online and a couple of signs near the entrance and next to the food that tells everyone that what they see is up for grab for free and comes from rescued items;
- Another very important sign is our banner to attach on the fence right on top of the basement for the whole of Dalston to see;
- There always is at least one person assigned to the laptop/speaker/projector task, but it’s good to know that, before 2pm, all of those things should be ready and working so, if you don’t see it happening, maybe ask around if anyone need help with it.
And this is pretty much all of it.
After the morning preparations, the day should go smoothly by itself, but there are a couple of things you could help keep an eye on if willing to:
- Refilling drinks. Mostly the hot water for the teas and the delish Zapatista coffee we serve. There should be coordinators to help with this, so ask them if you think a hand might be needed, but you’re unsure on what to do;
- Refilling food. Well, that’s trickier as well as rarer (thankfully). In case of need, a coordinator might already be on it and you can check with them if you want to offer help cooking more;
- Welcoming new people. If you’ve been at the cafe for a long time and you see someone new that seems disoriented, ask if you can offer your help and introduce them to our community space. We also have coordinators on the welcoming task, so, if it is too much for you or you’re unsure about some things, look out for them;
- Keep the space tidy and clean. Whoever comes should try to do their best to keep the place in a good condition, but, not everyone is always able to. If you want to collect cups and plates of fix/wash something, you’re more than welcome and there will be less pressure (and work) on the closing team at the end of the day.
In general, there are always people/coordinator on the lookout and you should be able to find a list of the coordinators of the day somewhere in the room. So, at anytime, feel free to look for them if you’re need of asking a question.
Now, let’s move on to the last section.
Well, this is when we undo whatever happened during the day. Eheh!
Let’s run another checklist:
- Clean the kitchen. Wash all of the cups, mugs, glasses, plates, cutlery, pots, pans, tools and whatnot. Clean all the surfaces, the cooker as well. Sweep the floor. Mop the floor;
- Put down all the signs. Don’t forget the banner and the gender neutral toilets;
- Check the toilets. Change the bin bags if needed, put new loo rolls, let’s leave it usable;
- Change all the bin bags/throw away the rubbish. You can find the big bins just around the corner from the side entrance (Tyssen street);
- Put table and chairs “back in place”. Which generally means individual or pair of tables, with the layout of the space falling in between a big cafe and a big classroom;
- Clean the main space. Sweep the floor and mop if/where needed;
- Give away the food. If we still have food by the end of the event, we try to put everything in take away containers and give it to the people who are leaving. If no one wants it, they can still take it and donate it to someone else who might need it;
- Put down the workshop station. Someone should be on it already, also because it’ generally their laptop;
- Put back the stuff in the storage. We store loads of our stuff in place like the infoshop items as well as spices and dry food for example. We do store a speaker too so let’s not forget it outside;
- Lock gate and side door. Hopefully, some of the long-term attendants know about it, but before leaving, we need to lock the gate the brings down to the basement and the entrance door of Tyssen Street.
And, at that point,if you’re not too tired, we can go for a drink or a gig or a party or all of them altogether!
After the cafe
Well, after all of this, the cycle begins again.
But, if like us, you don’t like routines (as well as many other things), you can join our Open Assemblies and help organise the next cafe from scratch as well as making decisions regarding the future of the project. We hold OAs the Tuesdays before and after the cafe, generally at Halkevi, the same space we use for the event.
For any other info, you can find us on instagram, facebook and mastodon or you can write at solidarity-cafe [at] riseup [dot] net.
Love & Solidarity.