Thursday 3 May 2012

Support the Treehouse Cafe!

It was almost inevitable, with rising costs and fuel bills, and a difficult financial past, the Treehouse Cafe has been asked by the Diocese of Bradford to find new premises. This is a great shame, and in July, we may well see the end of 18 years of soup and fairtrade cakes at 2 Ashgrove.
It was the first Fairtrade Cafe of its kind, launched at the same time as the Fairtrade mark - funded by Tearfund and Christian Aid. With the UK the first country to come up with the certificate, this makes it probably the first official certified Fairtrade Cafe in the world.

I hope it is not the end of the story. Desmond Tutu House could still be a home for a well stocked Fairtrade Shop (The Olive Branch) while actively promoting Fairtrade issues by continuing to be a home to 'Fairgrounds' (Nina Carter Brown's social enterprise that sells and promotes Fairtrade).

The Treehouse Cafe may be able to find new premises, and this could allow it to flourish. Sadly though, I think it is unlikely to be able to find a home that is quite as affordable as Tutu House.

Is there any hope? Well, the new Bishop is a fan of Fairtrade, and was pleased to announce that the Diocese has just achieved Fairtrade Status - perhaps if enough people contact him to encourage him to retain it, and enough people are eating in the Cafe between now and July to help pay the bills - then who knows? The Cafe collective are working hard to refine a business plan that could provide hope, and there is finally an understanding that the Treehouse could work in partnership with others, including faith groups - vital for its funding prospects.

All I know is that the place is a remarkable achievement, build on the efforts of hundreds of incredible workers and volunteers over the years. It has provided a hub for ideas and hopes in the city, and will be sorely missed if it goes. Get down there as soon as you can, and show your support for those who have been working hard to sustain a new co-operative model for the Cafe.

Be kind to the Diocese, this cannot have been an easy decision for them, and they have subsidised the project in some way for nearly two decades. That does not mean however that people should be afraid to lobby them to retain such a vital facility.

There must be at the very least in Tutu House, support for a fairtrade hub, and a social space for great ideas to be debated and enacted. Let us hope and pray that this is not be the end, but merely a new beginning. It is hard for me to mask my own disappointment - I've watched this baby grow into adulthood and it is so very hard to see it potentially leave home at 18 to an uncertain future.

Let us do all we can to support the people involved and discover new ways of promoting Fairtrade, non-violence and ethical living for all.

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