Bar Bar Black Sheep
Bar Bar Black Sheep will be Wolverton’s 1st Social Enterprise café bar, gallery, outlet for local crafters, creators and makers and community and business hub, providing access to high quality community services as well as underpinning a drive towards socially responsible supply chains through local growers, crafters, makers and bakers. The café will be a unique and flexible space enabling any number of activities to take place at different times as well as open as an independent arts bar. We aim to “go against the flock” to initiate creative community cohesion.
Dementia Cafe – a supportive and inclusive space where Dementia sufferers and their “buddy”/carer can engage in some arts activities as well as share and meet with others over a good cuppa.
Parents/Guardian & Toddler Art Café – Wolverton lacks spaces where mums/dads can chill out while the kids are engaged in activity. This space will enable parents/guardians to connect over coffee while the toddlers get creative.
Youth & Community Arts – We will be able to use the space as a location and a springboard for offering a new approach to youth and community arts activity, rather than just being site specific, we can take the projects out into the community from the cafe, facilitating access to high quality and diverse arts programming. We will also work with local residents to programme a flourishing events calendar for the Town Square including community lunches, small concerts and performances, busking spots, street markets and more
Collective Café – The Black Sheep Collective CIC has an ever growing pool of artists, creators, makers etc who will use the space to meet and plan and devise inspiring projects.
Coaching Café – The coaching café creates the space to combine the conventions of 1-2-1 coaching and café conversation. It’s a place where people naturally congregate to enjoy the age old process of good conversation combined with talking about stuff that matters in a supported, focused way. Conversational coaching at its best involves an invitation to come in, sit down (or stay standing!) and explore, venture, listen, be curious and discover new opportunities for action on life, career, business and change. The unique space and feel helps create a relaxed and ideal environment for the ultimate flexible way of getting a business or life choice straight in your head through to sorting your life out!
Gallery – an ever evolving programme of art exhibitions will fill the space. Presented in a salon style format, we will exhibit professional works alongside emerging and new local artists. In particular we will focus on fringe art from excluded/fringe community members (such as disability art, homeless art and minority art).
Store – a costume and prop store will be setup in the rear of the shop. Offering resources to local arts groups. This project will also provide training and volunteering opportunities for people. This will also be an outlet providing pop-up retail space for local home based crafters/makers etc without the overheads of securing a premises in isolation.
Programming – a unique and engaging range of events will be programmed in the space including “food nights” run by local caterers, providing the “tastes” of the many cultures represented in the local community, from Asian to Polish to Spanish and back again! A series of open mic/poetry/spoken word and talks will be offered, with guest speakers and authors on a range of topics.
Hub – working with the Social Business Alliance, we will be able to offer vital information, advice and guidance to local business start-ups. This will encourage more small and independent enterprises to grow, positively impacting on the local economy and continued regeneration of the town. The hub will also enable small business owners to get connected, with the setup of a new group of business people being able to meet in an informal environment, making connections and building trade amongst each other as well as exploring community development.
Suppliers – we will source all our products, where possible, from local suppliers including the Urban Farm, Virtual Orchard, Concrete Cow Brewery and individual growers, makers etc All our materials used in the capital works will be from recycled or reclaimed sources.
Community investment through Social Enterprise – The Black Sheep Collective CIC donates all surplus to local initiatives this has included funding to the Wolverton Lantern Festival for kids lantern making sessions, sponsorship of the Wolverton Tennis Club, funding to the Green Party for campaign marketing, the replacement of a stolen BMX to a local artists’ daughter, design, print and marketing for the Wolverton Business & Enterprise Alliance and marketing materials for Future Wolverton, removal of graffiti and litter in the church yards, volunteering with the Winter Night Shelter and donating ex-show costumes to local charity shops (AGE UK). Through Bar Bar Black Sheep, we will be able to support more causes and increase our positive impact on the locality, as well as support local residents to start-up more community action programmes.
Community needs have changed, community work needs to diversify and meet the expectations and challenges of creating cohesion. We believe that new approaches, innovative initiatives and creative programming can achieve cohesion, without using labels and avoiding stigmas often associated with “community services”.
Health & Wellbeing – providing pastoral care and access to vital community services through sessions, drop ins, coaching café and signposting. Many VCSE groups and services in MK are having to give up there venues due to increased costs, these services are still very much needed by the community but there are currently very few sites offering a comfortable and nice environment for groups to meet, without the labels and stigmas that are present when having to visit designated sites such as counselling centres, GPs/Health Centres etc
Cultural & Community Cohesion – 30% of the population are of Asian heritage/background. Through innovative events and programming, we will use creative ways to engage the community and foster cohesion, without labelling it as such. Wolverton is one of the most diverse areas in Milton Keynes, with the population due to expand significantly with new housing stock being built, we already see a growing international community including Polish, Spanish, American and Irish. Through our creative programming we can celebrate this diversity, foster new relationships, showcase how it is “the people” that really make a place and reduce fractions or barriers between groups. Wolverton suffered the loss of its Grade ii listed theatre and community arts centre, and the associated charity, which was providing a range of community creative activities, many of which were oversubscribed. Many of the community buildings are fully booked by church or religious groups leaving next to no space for smaller informal and inclusive activities. The community still value these initiatives and we would be able to provide some of these activities in the site. We would also be a hub for volunteering in the town, enabling groups and resident led activities to meet, plan and operate from. There are a growing number of campaigns in the town including, “Don’t Rubbish Wolverton” a resident led environmental action team. We would like to setup time banking for these groups of volunteers, not only providing them space to meet, but to acknowledge their volunteering through “pay back” schemes evolving the “suspended coffees” movement developed in the USA. We will evolve the Suspended Coffees idea to include other community benefits such as customers being able to “buy” a coaching session for someone, as well as a coffee!
Environment (Regeneration) – The site is located in the town square of the Victorian railway town. This area has been run down for many years, but recently a town referendum was adopted by the local authority to ensure the development of a “town centre” and any future developments in the town are sensitive to the unique style of the area. Bar Bar Black Sheep is located on this site, and benefits from lots of outdoor public space on its doorstep, which would enable us to re-animate the space and provide opportunities for community activities, events and programmes. The unique character of Wolverton needs protecting and restoring, we will never see architecture of this kind built again, with the local museum undergoing a significant capital redevelopment programme, new housing stock and retail outlets being planned and the redevelopment of a 70’s shopping centre (next to the town square) we are keen to ensure the smaller shops and retail units remain heavily rooted in the community and are operated by local organisations who strive to ensure community engagement is a priority. This is key to maintaining Wolverton’s charm and creating a “destination” encouraging visitors to the town impacting on local economy.
Social Enterprise & Business – providing information, support, advice and guidance on startups, social enterprise and small businesses (Wolverton has a significantly high number of home businesses that operate in isolation, the hub will provide a network and establish trade amongst the businesses as well as support the development of the local economy). Our site will be an exemplar project, championing Social Enterprise and linking into national/international campaigns including Buy Social, Social Saturday and Fairtrade.
Can you give us some statistics on this problem?
30% Asian minority background in the population
Growing population from other international countries including Poland, Spain, Ireland and America.
Local Authority’s Youth club closed and youth worker provision withdrawn 2013-2014 leaving little to no support for young people.
Increasing home businesses, with no hub or networking space to support growth, which has been acknowledged in the Local Economic Partnership (ESIF) Strategy
South East Midlands Local Economic Partnership (SEMLEP) recognises and has a cultural strategy that supports initiatives of this kind.
What is your solution?
To open Bar Bar Black Sheep as an alternative, culturally relevant and cohesive approach to addressing the issues above. The space will be functional, contemporary, appealing and adopt a Socially Enterprising ethos across all its operations. The site will become a template of innovative community development work, without the “community development” labels or stigmas. The space will be “people” driven, responding and reacting to meet local needs and aspirations. The bar can function as a “destination” and be bale compete in the surrounding night-time economy, however it will stand out as a social enterprise reinvesting its profit in the community. Through this we can demonstrate that professional business operations, when used for social value and purpose, can and do make a difference and achieve sustainability for community work, reducing the need for grant aid support and ensuring the community are at the heart of programming.
How will you deliver this?
We have secured the premises and the lease. Our business plan has been developed with a view to opening in October 2015 under the Buy Social/Social Saturday campaigns. The site will function as a contemporary coffee shop, gallery, bar and business & community hub. A unique site, unlike any other in Milton Keynes (one of the fastest growing cities in the UK), we will programme a range of creative initiatives and activities, meeting the needs of local people as well as providing a range of opportunities in training, volunteering and engagement.
The cafe will provide high quality local products and service to the local community, generating profits to be given to carefully selected community causes. Late evening opening (Friday & Saturday), availability to community groups and promotion of local businesses, groups and artists will boost the local community and economy. Once the initial capital has been raised, the business will be self-sustaining and the support offered to other groups through our surplus will reduce the strain on smaller organisations to chase grant aid support.