A cuppa to save public spaces: ‘I want people to feel it’s their place’
A new café opened its doors in St Andrew’s Courtyard in Roath. Their aim? Raising money for the community.
Nathan Wyburn hurried from the church to the newly opened coffee court in the courtyard. As he moved away from the place where he had been standing, a wall with a cracked surface were exposed.
The entrance of the coffee court was packed with new customers. Nathan rushed back to the counter to help Wayne Courtney process new orders. They are the founders of St Andrew’s Coffee Court in Cardiff. Each cup sold means an extra repair bill will be received for the wall in the building.
“It’s all for charity to help keep this amazing church open,” said Nathan. The coffee-room, aims to generate profits and collect donations for ensuring the survival of the 151-year-old community building behind it, St. Andrew’s United Reformed Church.
“We wanted it to feel like it’s for everyone regardless of faith background whatever. You don’t even have to believe in anything,” said Wayne, “it’s in the church, but it’s for everyone.”
St Andrew’s Church is an important building for the community, hosting various events and classes for residents. However, being an old building, lots of money is needed for maintenance and frequent reparations. “I think it was built in 1870,” said Wayne, “obviously, it is going to need work done on a regular basis.”
Nathan said the roof is the most worrying part, with the walls sometimes leaking. Also climbing up the spire is difficult. Although they have raised a lot of money over the years, “it continues to need work done, to need money,” said Wayne.
Wayne believes that keeping the church open is like running a big house. “Everything costs: lighting, heating and water,” he said, “sometimes you think – oh my money’s just going out all the time.”
Wayne and Nathan met eight years ago exactly in St. Andrew’s Church. Wayne was hosting a baking competition in the building. He said: “I invited Nathan, he came and literally never left.”
They don’t just work at the cafè project together: they now live together, do radio programmes, write for the same magazine, sing karaoke and laugh every day. “We didn’t know each other before. We just hit it off,” said Wayne, “we became great friends and it just blossomed from there.”
Before opening the coffee court, they had done all sorts of charity events – from rock concerts to drag queen shows. “So, doing something like this with the coffee court, it just seemed perfect, because we like to talk to people. We like to smile and we like to chat,” said Nathan.
Wayne called running the cafe ‘a crazy idea’. “It came to us in the middle of the night one day,” said Nathan, “we thought let’s use this space outside the church because it was a car park that was never used.
“It’s a big green space on the ends of the street, and when it’s sunny, the sun catches here for about eight to ten hours a day, which is great.”
From the colourful flowers and umbrellas in the courtyard, to the wooden chairs and huge teacups on the roof, all have been donated by people from the community. “It’s almost like everyone’s taken a little bit of ownership in it. I want people to feel like it’s yours and not ours,” said Wayne.
“People come along and feel a little bit of pride of what’s going on there, because it’s a community project,” he added.
Since opening on May 1, everything has gone well. Although, they have struggled to balance their full-time job at CardiffLife and their commitment with the coffee shop. “I don’t think I balance very well, just don’t sleep,” said Nathan, “but we’re trying to keep this going for as long as we can.” When it came to the question, Wayne just smiled wryly and repeated “I don’t know” twice.
At the moment, they have some 16-year-old volunteers from the theatre. “They’re enjoying just talking to people and it’s become a really nice place to be,” said Nathan, “it’s an extremely welcoming place for anybody of any religion, race and sexuality.”