A year at the heart of community

Volunteers Anita Dryburgh, Colin Peter, Christina MacKenzie & Kenny Robertson (Fife Photo Agency)
Volunteers Anita Dryburgh, Colin Peter, Christina MacKenzie & Kenny Robertson (Fife Photo Agency)
  • Open for one year
  • Volunteers are key
  • Community focal point

Friendly and helpful staff who are ‘extremely welcoming’ – and the best scones in the world!

Those are just some of the visitor testimonies received by the West Wemyss Community Cafe which, since 2014, has been run entirely by volunteers.

From when we took over, the support has been brilliant.

Anita Dryburgh

Keen to see a local cafe retained for visitors to the coastal village after financial pressure forced the closure of the former Walk Inn, the community pulled together to keep the doors open, and now welcomes customers five days a week.

And just over a year after taking over the reigns, the volunteers are celebrating the success of the eatery, keen to prove all those who said it couldn’t be done very, very wrong.

Anita Dryburgh, volunteer co-ordinator, said: “It has been pretty hectic over the last year.

“But I have to say, from when we took over, the support has been brilliant and we have built up a few wee regulars who keep coming back, which is really good.

“We also had a few good reviews on TripAdvisor, which helps promote the cafe.”

Karen Staig, community development worker and also a volunteer at the cafe, said there are around 15-20 volunteers at the cafe, who each work in teams to split the working week, which is Wednesday to Sunday.

“We wanted to make sure certain people didn’t have to be here every day but we still manage to open 20 days a month,” she said.

The cafe takes on volunteers from all walks of life, including three former Remploy workers and a volunteer from the St Clair Centre in Kirkcaldy.

“This is a great place for them to come. They all have their own wee things they like to do, and it’s giving them social skills too,” said Karen.

The cafe is also giving local youngsters a taste of work which they can highlight on their CV.

“My 17-year-old nephew has been volunteering in the cafe, and he’s just managed to get a job. He said he would never have had the confidence before now to have gone for it if he hadn’t volunteered in the cafe,” said Christina MacKenzie, a local mum who gives up her time for the cafe too.

The eatery has been drawing visitors from all across Fife, with many tourists making their way along the Fife Coastal Path stopping in for a bite to eat as well.

And, as Anita proudly says, they’ve gone global too.

“Our furthest-travelled customer has been from California!

“They’re a member of the Western America Vintage Car Club and were over here at a rally when they came to the cafe.”

The Wemyss Estate also kindly sends bus-loads of visitors down to the cafe on a regular basis, something which the volunteers repaid in kindness with refreshments – including those famous scones – at the recent Wemyss Gardens Clematis Festival.

For now, they’re hoping for a busy summer, and more praise for the cafe.

“Of course, it’s been hard work – I’ve phoned Karen some nights to say ‘I’m not doing it tomorrow!’ – but you do, and everyone still comes in because you want to see it suceed,” said Anitaa.

For more information and future events, search ‘West Wemyss Community Cafe’ on Facebook.

In 2011, West Wemyss was the focus of a BBC and Big Lottery project, Village SOS, aimed at creating a community space for the local people which would not only serve the community but benefit it too.

The West Wemyss Walk Inn cafe and pub were created in the former Wemyss Arms pub, to be used as a not-for-profit community and arts hub space for the village.

Financial pressures forced the business to close to the public in 2014.

Undeterred, the West Wemyss residents formed a brand new committee, with members creating a new pub downstairs and a community cafe upstairs.

Twelve months later, they are celebrating its success.

“This is volunteer-run but it is sticking to those values which were set out when the project originally started,” said Karen. “It’s here to give something back to the community and to make West Wemyss a better place to work, live and visit.”

The cafe has been a real supporter of local causes. Funds raised through the cafe and at the recent Clematis Festival have gone to local groups, including East Fife and Scooniehill Riding for the Disabled.

At Christmas, the cafe offered an ‘old folks treat’, as well as breakfast with Santa Claus and a kids’ party.

It held a successful summer gala and will be meeting soon to discuss an event in the next few months.

“This is what it’s all about for us,” said Karen. “We’re not out to make profit – it’s a social enterprise for the community.”

With allotments now being installed next door, the cafe is hoping that it can offer locally grown produce as part of its menu.

Despite a host of dedicated volunteers already on their roster, Anita and Christina were quick to point out that help is always welcome.

“We are always looking for new people to join us,” said Christina.

Many of the volunteers have been helped through their food hygiene certificate, and Karen points out it is a great environment in which to learn new skills and make friends.

The group is so proud of those already helping out at the cafe that it is hoping to hold a ‘Volunteers Celebration’ evening to congratulate them all on their hard work over the past 12 months.

If you would like to help out, visit the cafe’s Facebook page, or give it a call on 01592 652001.