Mark Adair

Community café opens, creating new jobs in Gateshead

A new community café has opened in Gateshead as part of the redevelopment of a former high street bank, creating new jobs and offering training for people who are long-term unemployed. The Bank in Chopwell is a community-led enterprise and welfare centre which encompasses office space for small businesses, a community market and the newly-opened café.

It is one of 14 voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) projects supported by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)‘s Local Growth Fund VCSE Capital Grant programme, receiving £100,000 towards the conversion of the former Lloyd’s bank building.

Jodie Barwick-Bell, Chair of Chopwell Regeneration CIO, which established and runs The Bank, said, “local people have worked together to open The Bank as a warm and welcoming place in the heart of our community.

“Around 500 people a week are spending time in the building which is already having a significant impact in our rural village. We are hugely grateful to the North East LEP and all the other organisations who have supported us with this vital project.”

The café operates on a ‘pay what you feel’ basis and aims to bring revenue and visitors into Chopwell while also helping to address the issue of food poverty in the area, which has been exacerbated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis.

Five new members of staff have been recruited, including a chef, two front of house managers and a cleaner, and the café’s employability skills training programme began in April.

Upstairs from The Bank café, the office space is now home to five local organisations, while a programme of events includes coding workshops for young people, craft workshops and a pre-loved school uniform market.

The project has also already received a Bright Ideas in Health Innovation Award for ‘Making Healthier, Happier Places and Spaces’.

Helen Golightly OBE, Chief Executive of the North East LEP, said, “by awarding a total of £1.2 million in funding to VCSE projects in the North East, we aimed to support communities to recover from the impact of the pandemic and help create stronger, more sustainable local economies.

“The Bank is a wonderful example of this in action, combining a community space with programmes which support people’s mental health and skills development, as well as bringing new jobs to the area.”

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