The Lounge Cafe - Alvechurch Communities Together
The initial idea for a new village facility came after a local PACT (Partners And Communities Together) meeting, where a group of local residents left the meeting feeling really concerned and saddened about the tensions across the different generations in the community.
Concerns about anti-social behaviour by some of the younger residents were raised but, equally, they seemed to sometimes be criticised unfairly and it was apparent that nothing was being done to address the fact, that in a relatively rural area, there is little for young people to do and nowhere for them to go in the evenings.
A group was then set up to try and do something about it, starting with talking to different stakeholders, including young people, residents, the police, parish, district and county councils, the village school and some local businesses.
The-Lounge-carol-singersAlvechurch Communities Together (ACT), a registered Non-Profit organisation run by volunteers, was set up and secured funding and support from parish, district and county councils for the rent and for the salaries of part-time youth workers.
In October 2010, ACT hired a room at the Working Men's Club and started a weekly youth club. This ran as a pilot scheme to provide a forum to engage further with young people, while ACT tried to find further funding.
On average between 40 and 50 young people attended each week. Very quickly it became apparent that this was not an ideal venue, so the search began for a dedicated location. As the project progressed, it was decided that it would be a greater benefit to the wider community to expand the project beyond its initial scope and so the idea of a community Internet cafe was born.
Young people were involved in every stage of planning this project. They came up with the name 'The Lounge', designed the logo, the colour schemes for the interior and helped with some of the decoration. They also helped interview the initial youth workers and now have a Youth Management Team which has an active role in planning what activities they do in the evenings, fund-raising ideas and what trips they go on.
In November 2010, after securing funding from both parish and district councils, as well as a successful charity bid, ACT took on the lease of a former hairdresser's premises in the centre of Alvechurch.
Many supportive local people and businesses also donated goods, services, money and time to help ACT with the extensive refurbishment and development of The Lounge which opened on Friday, January 14, 2011. Recently ACT was successful in bidding for for £35,000 over three years, for their work with young people, from the Positive Activities Fund administered by the County Council.
Where we are now
The Lounge is an Internet cafe located in the heart of Alvechurch, a village in Worcestershire. It provides free Internet access, serves a variety of hot and cold food and drink, and is available for hire.
The café is open five days a week and over the past two years has more than doubled its takings. It has become a community hub for local residents and visitors to the village. In addition to the usual café facilities, The Lounge also provides a number of alternative services including bus timetables, local police noticeboard and a second-hand book swap shop.
Owing to its Non-profit status, the venue can be used for other community activities. For example, during the week it is used by the ACT youth club 'Youth @ TheLounge' - a safe, warm meeting venue for local teenagers, offering activities and use of the Internet in a controlled environment.
The Lounge is also available for hire and has been used by The National Childbirth Trust, Local Neighbourhood Watch, a local bereavement group and local support groups. The premises have also been used for both adult and children’s parties with great success.
As part of its community work, ACT has run and been involved in many local events including the Alvechurch Picnic in the Park for the Jubilee celebrations. ACT is dedicated to bringing the community together and has worked in conjunction with local organisations including Alvechurch Baptist Church, The Village Choir, The Pigott Trust and Parish Council.
The Lounge Community Internet CafeSince this project started, Sergeant Ben Hembry, from the local policing team, has reported a 60 per cent drop in anti-social behaviour and concerns about young people 'hanging about' is no longer the main issue reported at the quarterly village PACT meetings.
Emily Yates, an Alvechurch villager who first started as a volunteer, before becoming a youth worker and then the project co-ordinator, said:
“It is really starting to take off now. What is nice is that the young people are starting to come in at the weekends and in the holidays when it is a café and not a youth session. They are mixing with other generations and respect the fact that The Lounge is not just for them and that everyone can use it alongside each other."
If you would like to volunteer to help at The Lounge, call Emily Yates on 07919 083715 or email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are interested in other volunteering opportunities in your community, visit the website www.do-it.org.uk for local opportunities or contact the Worcester Volunteer Centre on 01905 24741.