Retail and Consumer

Here is where you can find some of Gloucestershire’s superheroes - and a damn good cup of coffee

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 21 July 2020 9:20

Here is where you can find some of Gloucestershire’s superheroes - and a damn good cup of coffee

Those dropping into a certain Gloucester café not a stone’s throw from a rather famous rugby ground will find the usual friendly welcome. 

Its relaxed, family-friendly surroundings might be a little quieter currently – with its upstairs gatherings, after school clubs, keep-fit, craft and other classes not currently active due to the social distancing restrictions imposed. 

But its coffee – sourced from one of Gloucester’s best-kept secrets, Ethical Addictions – cakes, and meals continue to draw regulars and new faces, with only some aware of the amazing role staff and volunteers played in recent weeks. 

When the lockdown closed its business the operation, whose ethos is about building community, morphed – not quite like Clark Kent changing into his Superman outfit in a phone booth – but the status of superhero seems very fitting. 

Shut to customers, it nevertheless became a hive of activity as part of the Diocese of Gloucester-backed Feed The 5,000 campaign which provided meals to everyone from NHS staff to the homeless, from those shielding and isolated, to those who wanted to pay to support the movement.

Led by The Long Table, founded by Tom Herbert and part of the Grace Network, a Christian social enterprise based in Brimscombe, the Kingsholm café became one of the fittingly named ‘Hero’ kitchens set up across the county. 

Others included The Sober Parrot in Cheltenham, The Clean Plate, Wiggly Worm in Gloucester as well as The Royal Agriculture College in Cirencester and Thomas Franks in The Cotswolds.

During the peak of the pandemic, the network of kitchens was producing more than 5,000 meals a week and had delivered 31,000 meals by the end of its lifespan – 81 per cent of which were free.

Read more: Could a business model born in the pandemic be a panacea to hunger?

Nurses came off shift to be met by freezers full of the free food, doctors and consultants too, the homeless were fed and a fleet of vehicles driven by volunteers dispatched meals county-wide. 

The Raikes Journal had a long chat with Colin Edwards, one of the stakeholders in the café, but could not get him heap any praise on what they had done other than to say they were thrilled to have been part of the operation. 

“We are back open as a café now, but we are taking it slowly. We are open 8.30am to 3pm. It is a little trickier – and we are not open Saturday yet,” he said. 

Some parts of the community, especially the nearby community of elderly residents, were still shielding or did not feel comfortable enough to mix socially. 

“The door is open to them when they are ready,” said Mr Edwards. 

“We have managed to come through this so far. We have looked hard at what we are doing and think we can make it through to Christmas, and if we can do that we will then look forward again,” he said, hinting at how hard the financial impact on the business was and is. 

Due to its considerable community classes staged in its upstairs hall not being able to operate the team might be losing one member of staff, but otherwise would remain intact – on reduced hours. 

“What has hurt us more than anything is that we cannot do as much for the community as we want to. And that is difficult for us,” said Mr Edwards.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is Roots Café & Community (69 Alvin Street, Gloucester).

Read more: Could a business model born in the pandemic be a panacea to hunger?