Feature: Gallatown cafe cooks up a storm

Cook Grace Beall serves, from left: Christine Jackson, Lillian Mothersole and Celia Lamb.
Cook Grace Beall serves, from left: Christine Jackson, Lillian Mothersole and Celia Lamb.

The Bite and a Blether Cafe at Overton Mains Community Centre has come a long way since it opened its doors to the Gallatown community six months ago.

Today it is a thriving community hub where people come once a week to meet and, as its name says, just have a bite and a blether!

Debbie Duncan, community support worker (left) and Margaret Allan, chairman of the Gallatown Gala and Community Group.

Debbie Duncan, community support worker (left) and Margaret Allan, chairman of the Gallatown Gala and Community Group.

And the management committee behind the various groups has ambitious plans to extend its opening hours and maybe even become a proper social enterprise, offering job and training opportunities to the local community.

When it started up it used to run every second Thursday, but now it is open every Wednesday, and regularly attracts between 25-30 customers who come along to enjoy a healthy and nutritious meal at a fraction of other cafe and restaurant prices.

In fact, on the day I visited, people were enjoying a delicious bowl of home-made vegetable soup, a plate of mince and tatties like mum used to make then apple crumble and custard all for the unbelievable price of £1.50.

Debbie Duncan, community support worker, said: “We get a lot of the ingredients from the Fairshare charity and it is used to cook the meals for the cafe.

“It is the community members who do the cooking, in particular Grace Beall, and who decide on the menu, and it works out really well.

“People can come along and bring the kids with them because there are toys for them in the hall to play with, and get something really nice to eat for almost cost price.

“There is also a baby and toddler group and art and craft group and they all just bring everyone together to socialise and spend some time doing what they enjoy.”

Grace Beall (56), who lives in Cairns St East, said she heard about the cafe from a neighbour and used to go along for something to eat, before offering to help and now doing most of the cooking.

“It is a great thing for the local community and people come along regularly to help out or to have something to eat and a chat. I really just enjoy the company and I have made some good friends through it.”

Councillor Neil Crooks, who popped in for lunch, said: “A lot of good work is being done in the Gallatown at the moment and this is a great example of the community working for itself.

“There is money available to spend here and we want to ensure it is spent where people want to see it spent and on what they want.”

Margaret Allan, chairman of the Gallatown Gala and Community Group, said: “The cafe has really taken off, and last week was so busy that we had to bring in extra tables and chairs. Any money we make goes straight back into the cafe.

“The community is brilliant and we have some brilliant bakers here, so it would be good to be able to open on more days and for longer, so that if people just wanted to pop in for a cake and coffee they could do.

“At the moment the Council is deciding what to do with the building, but we would love to take it on and run it for ourselves eventually, so it could really be a proper community business.”