Our Youth Drop-In

One of our most essential and yet challenging projects has been our work with younger age children – providing a daily access point and support service to children aged 10-18. We provide a space for them to belong, activities for them to participate in and Youth Workers to provide personal, social development and address their needs. They can avoid anti-social behaviour hot spots, meet their friends and participate in positive activities. The project has engaged over 100 children and our Youth Workers have built up positive relationships through voluntary engagement and delivered issue-based sessions, one to one support and advocacy with services.

But we won’t pretend it’s been easy. When you’ve been a Youth Worker for long enough to remember what a Youth Service looked like, with a Youth Centre in every ward, it becomes really clear to see just how much has changed for the children in our community and how that impacts on the broader community itself.

In the last 10 years things have changed significantly. This generation of teenagers haven’t had input from youth workers, they haven’t had anywhere to go and they aren’t used to their behaviour being challenged in a constructive way. Imagine being a teenager with a difficult family life. You might not feel very welcome at home, but where else can you go? The option is essentially to find a street corner or park and then, more often than not, nature takes its course and a path of risky behaviour opens up before them. The things you read about in the national papers – county lines, knives and the like – they’re all happening right here in Scunthorpe. Trust us, we’ve dealt with them all directly. And, for the most part, it is going unchallenged. We quickly found through this project that not many welcomed us bringing issues to the attention of services. It seems too often, they’d rather not know, no doubt in part because they don’t have the budgets to actually address these issues successfully. But sometimes you’ve got to stick your head above the parapet. So, we will continue to do our bit and lobby for change. We won’t give up on our young people.

The benefits of our ongoing, consistent support are starting to show. It takes a long time to build effective relationships with disengaged children and even longer for positive change to take effect.
But we recognise this project became a bit difficult for our customers. These children didn’t know how to behave in a youth centre, let alone a Café. Our job is to help them reach that place, but we had underestimated the severity of impact having no Youth Service had had on some of the most vulnerable. For a while, the success in engagement of local children affected the delicate balance of the Café for our customers. So, we’ve tweaked the drop in, addressed the issues and we believe, found the balance again. So, the Café remains a place for everyone, a safe, relaxing environment but one that continues to tackle the needs of our community. We will continue to provide a space for the children who need it.

Our Music Development Project

This year we also built on the hard work of our Tom in relation to music, and turned it into a proper project. Some of you may know that Tom’s passion is music, if you spend ten minutes with him you soon realise. We try and play to our teams’ strengths and now that’s what he’s working on half the time – developing young people through music. This can mean teaching someone an instrument from scratch, honing their skills further or talent development for bands – we do it all. This project forms part of our strategic approach to live music locally. We recognised that it’s important to invest in young people and to ensure the great local scene continues; we need to make sure there’s a pipeline of talent coming through. For that to happen, a physical, equipped space with skilled support is essential. We provide free access to rehearsal, recording and performance space and opportunities, allowing young people to refine their sound and develop their confidence.

Bands like Finno, Joe Russell-Brown, The Nancy’s, Kingsway and the Grime crew have already benefitted from this. But we’ve also worked with 55 other young people and some of our best outcomes are with those who have never played or performed before. One young girl who was a CSE survivor went from complete disengagement with school to plotting her college studies from the confidence she gained on the project. Another, whose Mother sadly passed away, has a creative outlet and music has been critical in enabling her to develop positive relationships through which she can begin to open up and process her feelings.

Music can broaden horizons. When it’s at its best, it challenges the status quo, opens up different points of view and encourages creative expression. In this project music is our tool to engage and unlock aspiration but tying it in with live experience, encouraging young people to see and try new things.

This is our own little punk movement. Punk isn’t time bound to the seventies and it shouldn’t be wrapped in a British flag. It doesn’t mean spitting and safety pins to us. It’s a DIY ethos, a questioning, rebellious spirit and a cultural exchange. In the current climate (bleurgh) that spirit is needed just as much today as it was when it first emerged. We want socially conscious, engaged and active young people, our own little punks.

Our Volunteers

In the last year we worked with 53 volunteers.

Our volunteers are the reason the Café exists. They’re not here for us, we are here for them – to offer them work experience, training and youth work support. We put them first which, you may have experienced at times, isn’t the easiest way to run a business. This Café is our vehicle, our means of working with people and we remain very grateful to you all for your ongoing support in achieving this. It is you guys buying the coffee that creates the environment for them to grow.

What you may not realise about our volunteers is all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, the stuff we’re not very good at telling you about. Often the stories don’t belong to us, but we recognise the importance of sharing more good news stories, especially in the current climate where young people are getting a bad press from organisations who should know a lot better.

We try and find the volunteers who need us the most. That means at any one time we can be supporting people through sexual or physical abuse, anxiety, gender transition, learning or developmental barriers or any range of issues. Our role isn’t just to help them become more employable, it’s to support them in all ways, knowing that removing other barriers has a massive impact on their ability to find work. There’s a story behind each and every one of the volunteers, everyone is here for a reason. But it’s our job to deal with those reasons, and still provide an environment that you can relax in.

Working with volunteers never fails to amaze us – the commitment, the talent that young people display is part of the reason we stay so positive. Our volunteers are not just our reason to be, they’re our inspiration.  

This year, and every year, you can expect us to continue working with volunteers. We ask that you place a bit of trust in us in this respect, to remember that we’ve got an amazing team of Youth Workers who truly care about the young people we work with and that’s things happening all the time that we simply can’t tell you about. Success stories are one thing, but the sad ones are quite another. Social Media often isn’t the appropriate place to tell you about the work we do, but we encourage you to ask us questions, to attend Members meetings and find out more about this important piece of work – should you wish to.


We’ve such a fun smorgasbord of people and groups that use the café. Over the last year there was over 200 events with a socially conscious purpose. There’s mental health support going on around us every day from all sectors, but we’ve also got card players, toddler groups, the awesome sling library, dungeons and dragons; we host the indie market and the record fair, feel good day and all the others; then there’s the groups of friends, the people visiting home, the people with nowhere else to go. Everyone has a story to tell about this building and it’s amazing to see it be a second home to such a rich variety of folk.

We are active in our community and will always engage in activities that you may not be aware of. We stopped asking you lovely lot to contribute to suspended coffees, but we still give them out. We host the Terracycle scheme, we provide our space for free for community groups to start up and we engage with local efforts to develop things. We liaise with the homeless team regularly and will continue to advocate for and help (where possible) everyone that comes through the door. It’s amazing how often people turn up at the Café having been told that this is the place that can help – often by the authorities that should be doing the helping. Whilst this isn’t something we’d advertise and can occasionally cause additional pressure, we will always try where we can, because we don’t concern ourselves with ticking boxes – if someone needs help and you can, you should! And yet, we believe the Café is still a safe space for all and everyone to visit. We treat everyone the same and believe that people respond to that environment. Yes, you may encounter some people outside of your usual, but from our point of view, that’s normally a good thing.  

This year the building even got recognised as one of national historical significance, one of only four surviving large-scale English Co-Op murals from the 50s and 60s. And with the ‘Three Ships’ mural in Hull under threat, it’s continued survival becomes all the more important. We’re incredibly proud to have taken a building of local importance and kept it going and feel pretty confident that it’d be lying in tatters, like so many before it, if we hadn’t come up with this weird café idea. You can read more about the building and how it came about here … https://c20society.org.uk/building-of-the-month/co-operative-pharmacy-scunthorpe-lincolnshire

Music and Gigs

Being a music venue is pretty tough. Up and down the country there’s a trend of these places closing, struggling to survive. Our town isn’t any different in that respect. People have less money in their pockets, the internet has had a massive impact and there’s a lot less people willing to take the gamble of a fiver for a band they’ve never heard of. But music venues remain culturally significant. We do live music because we believe in its value, because we are passionate about it. We’ve never received a penny of funding for our music program, it has to stand on its own two feet. And we’re still doing it. Not as much as we’d like, but as much as we are able and as much as is healthy in this town. We remain grateful to a few dedicated promoters who do it for the love, to the musicians and the punters who make it possible. This year we’ve got some exciting stuff in the pipeline, and we’re starting to build up again… READ MORE

Two years ago, after a lot of thought, we decided to take on a considered strategy to keep live music viable at the Cafe. For a while we did a lot less than your average venue. We recognise the importance of an entire scene, rather than just focussing on us, and when the market got saturated, we did less to make sure the whole scene stayed in some health. And we invested in youth – because that’s who we are, but also because we recognised that we needed new bands and artists coming through to sustain the scene. It’s refreshing to see some of that starting to pay off. There are more younger people attending and a real buzz about some of the bands breaking through, in no small part down to our Music Project – of which more later. We’ve sorted out our promo, and are a lot more active on all channels. We’ve started a mailing list, sign up in the café next time you’re about or drop and email to amy@cafeindiependent.org.uk so we can get you added to it. We’ve started to work with more designers, link in with the college, tap into more genres. Still, we have to think carefully about each gig, and sadly, not just from a musical perspective but because we’re still here and we’ve not lost our passion, we’ll keep taking risks to find something new that’ll blow you away. Not every gig is a hit, but everyone one of them matters.

There’s been some fantastic developments in the form of the Speak Out spoken word events, and the sense of camaraderie that has been fostered amongst the local bands, really looking out for each other. We’ll continue to focus on the up and coming, and try and throw in a few big hitters that remember where they started out. We believe in the grassroots venue experience – for us, it’s always about discovering something new in an intimate venue. Give us that every time over a fifty quid ticket for an arena where you watch the gig on a screen.

Update on the Café

The Café is more full of life and laughter than ever before. We’re busier than ever and there’s always lots of little kids playing and a nice buzz about the place. We invested in the children’s area, but keeping the spirit of imagination and freedom that makes little ones enjoy the café so much. Our Café Manager Rachael has done a grand job in a much more challenging environment than you might realise. She keeps the volunteers active and engaged and fully represents our values on customer service. We tweaked the menu, keeping the old favourites but expanding the vegan range (most of which you wouldn’t even believe to be vegan). We tried our best to keep it affordable, recognising that what goes for £12 in any city nearby, just doesn’t reflect our ethos or our customers’ needs.

This year we want to keep on developing. We’ve always wanted to be the kind of place where you spend your money because it’s worth it – because the standard of food, drink and service is high. And then we can hit you with the soft and fluffy stuff that we actually exist for afterwards. Getting that balance right is pretty much a daily tightrope, but we think we’ve got it about right lately, and are committed to keep on developing. We’re not going all corporate but you can expect us to stay on top of seasonal trends this year and a wider range of activities for all ages.

This Café became much bigger than we expected, and matters more to many than we would ever have hoped. We’re extremely grateful for that, and will continue to try and enhance your experience, because you’re the people that make everything else we do possible.

It’s that time of year again.

Young people in front of a Cafe Indie sign

It’s that time of year once again, when one year of membership passes onto the next. And with that comes a choice for you all – whether you sign up for the year ahead.

We are all incredibly grateful for your support in the last year – and for many of you for all those years before. So, we want to share with you some our experiences over the last year, and what you can expect from us in 2020.

This year, the price remains the same – £10 for the year. Plus, bring us back your old Membership Card and we’ll throw in a free coffee for your trouble. The Co-Op has never been about money for us, it’s always been about development and hopefully the pricing helps reflect that. 

This year, there’s additional perks and we’re placing great focus on developing the Membership. There’s plenty of information in the revised handbook so please let us know if you’re interested and that we’ll send all the information to you.

Conscious that we (David) can be a little wordy at times, we’ve tried to keep it brief, but for those of you who want to know more, you can click through on each section (including this one) for more detail. For anyone still wanting more, please do get in touch with David directly. We are always happy when people bring their queries to us directly – that’s what being part of the Co-Op is all about.

In the beginning we didn’t allow ourselves to imagine that we’d be stronger than ever, still making a difference on our 6th birthday. And yet here we are. In no small part down to the unswerving commitment of a dedicated few, a community of active, engaged and socially conscious folk and an army of awesome young people.

We’ve been a Co-Op since 2016 and we cannot stress enough how committed to the concept we are. We created the Café to solve problems locally. That it developed such a large, wonderful community took us by surprise, but that’s why when we had the opportunity to change our governance, we chose the Co-Op structure. We believe the Café belongs to everyone and is a resource for all. We’ll hold our hands up and say that we haven’t developed the Co-Op element at the pace we would like, but we are committed to progressing your interest and engagement into active participation – if that’s what you want. You don’t have to be active; some folk just want the hot drinks discount and that’s absolutely fine, but please know, you can play as a big a part in the Co-Op as you would like.

Our Co-Op is a Multi-Stakeholder one. This means you can, should you wish, join the Board and get involved in the strategic decision-making side. For some, this may be really boring, but for others, it’ll give a more detailed insight into the work we do and the reasons behind it, as well as an opportunity to influence our future. But, please remember, we love evolution but signing up to the Co-Op means you subscribe to our values and ethos (as outlined in the Handbook), and those things will never change.