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Find It, Fix It, Flog It’s Gemma Longworth reveals new look coffee shop at Mencap Liverpool

1 year ago

Find It, Fix It, Flog It’s Gemma Longworth reveals new look coffee shop at Mencap Liverpool
Making new friends, Gemma and Mencap member Michelle Credit: Mencap Liverpool

Gemma offered her support after receiving a plea from Mencap’s volunteer co-ordinator Marianne Manson.

TV presenter and artist Gemma Longworth has spent three days helping to transform the coffee shop at the Mencap Liverpool and Sefton HQ in Crosby – and she says what’s been achieved is ‘remarkable’.

Gemma, the Anfield-born queen of upcycling on Channel 4’s Find It, Fix It, Flog It, says: “It’s made the world of difference.

“The furniture in the coffee shop was good quality, but it was dated and ugly. The idea was to create somewhere that was cheery, and where you’d want to spend a nice time.  What we – me, the members and artist friends – have achieved in three days is remarkable.

“Now you can’t help but smile when you walk into that room. I felt quite emotional when we’d finished – it’s been three days that have been wonderful.”

Gemma and the members and volunteers get to work Credit: Mencap Liverpool
Gemma and the members and volunteers get to work Credit: Mencap Liverpool

Gemma offered her support after receiving a plea from Mencap’s volunteer co-ordinator Marianne Manson – who got in touch to ask if she could offer advice on how to upcycle the coffee shop furniture: “But I’m not the type of person who can just give advice. I run lots of workshops so I felt the need to go and show her how to do it,” smiles Gemma.

“We arranged a meeting and the plan for me was to go along, offer some advice, look at the furniture and suggest some paints, some tools, that sort of thing, but when I saw the furniture, especially the old nursing home chairs….?

“No disrespect to Mencap, because the place itself and the organisation is wonderful and cheery, but the coffee shop did not reflect that – and they needed my help.

“The whole purpose was to get people into the charity to spend their money, meet the members, and have a nice time – and no-one was having a nice time in those chairs!”

Gemma decided she, Mencap members and volunteers could do the bulk of the work on the coffee tables and chairs, and she invited artist friends to help brighten up the nursing home chairs that were there: “They were taking up a lot of space so they really needed to make a statement, and they needed help from professionals!

“I put a plea out on Instagram to ask some artist friends if they could get involved and transform them and they did. I thought a lot of people would say they’d love to help but couldn’t – but everyone just jumped at the chance, and it was amazing.

“Amy the coffee shop manager chose vibrant colours because she wanted it to be really cheerful, so you’d smile when you walked in the room, and she wanted a botanical theme because they’d been working on the garden recently, so we wanted to bring the outside in. And, of course, the coffee shop is right by the sea, so we wanted to bring that in too.”

Gemma adds: “Each of the nursing chairs is completely different. But what’s lovely is that Amy said each of the members is completely different, they are all individuals, all unique, and so the chairs represent each of them. It’s just so lovely.”

And she says: “All the members have picked up new skills, which Marianne says they will use going forward; we all worked as a team and a community, and it’s not just about the furniture, those few days and what we have achieved have meant a lot to people. 

Buy By Bethan and her fantastic sunset chair. Credit: Mencap Liverpool
Buy By Bethan and her fantastic sunset chair. Credit: Mencap Liverpool

“It’s just been wonderful.

“The coffee shop is a now a cheerful, welcoming place and I hope it will get more people in, if only to look at the chairs. My job is really rewarding anyway because I try to see what I do as turning negatives into positives, I try to take something that is maybe made for the bin or the tip and turn it into something beautiful that can live on a bit longer, that’s what I do on the show.”

Marianne says: “The staff and members are absolutely over the moon with all that has been achieved in just three days with the coffee shop revamp. The coffee shop now represents the vital spark of the charity and celebrates the individuality of each of our members. 

“We are incredibly thankful for all the time, effort and creativity that Gemma and her team of artists have invested in the project to create a colourful and welcoming space for our staff, members and the local community. Every member, volunteer and artist who was involved in the project should be very proud. 

“We cannot wait to welcome everyone to the transformed coffee shop space and our members – who all have learning disabilities – are really excited about using our their new-found upcycling skills in the future!”

Gemma takes a breather after the work is done. Credit: Mencap Liverpool
Gemma takes a breather after the work is done. Credit: Mencap Liverpool

Gemma’s got even busier times planned over the next few months. She’s waiting to hear about the recommission for Find It, Fix It, Flog It and when that will be, and she’s got a show coming out on CBeebies next week called What’s In Your Bag? getting children to think about furniture upcycling.

“And then,” says Gemma, who continues to run workshops for MerseyMade and art therapy sessions at dot-art, “I’m going to have a very busy summer. I’ve got a lot of workshops to do promoting art as therapy and encouraging people to be creative and have fun at wellbeing festivals like The Big Retreat Festival. I can’t wait.”

And, of course, Gemma, might need to go back to the Mencap Coffee Shop: “I made so many lovely friends there that I’ll pop back and have a cup of coffee and a catch up with them – and keep an eye on the chairs, and make sure they’re looking after them. If I have to go in and give them a bit of a wax every now and again I will.

“It was just amazing. Mencap has stolen a little piece of my heart.”

You can find out more on Mencap Liverpool HERE.

* The artists who helped were: Matthew Thomas, Lorraine Hughes, Buy By Bethan, Danni Morton, Lena & The Sea, Sorrell Kerrison, Luce Kelly, Kat Jackson, Love Art Global, Ana Cerniciuc, and Gemma Longworth.

* *Mencap Coffee is located at 6-8 Mariners Road – a stone’s throw from Crosby beach – and is open Wednesday to Saturday from 9am-4.30pm.

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