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Find It, Fix It, Flog It’s Gemma to help revamp coffee shop for city charity Mencap

9 months ago

By Janet Tansley

Find It, Fix It, Flog It’s Gemma to help revamp coffee shop for city charity Mencap
Marianne Manson with volunteer and member, Adam Farah

A city charity is getting ready to revamp its coffee shop with the help of TV presenter and upcycler Gemma Longworth.

Anfield-born Gemma, from Channel 4’s Find It, Fix It, Flog It, is set to spend three days with Mencap Liverpool & Sefton, helping them to transform the shop at their Crosby headquarters from this weekend.

And Marianne Manson, volunteer co-ordinator for the organisation, couldn’t be more thrilled.

Marianne says: “I was at home watching Find It, Fix It, Flog It and told my husband I was going to get in touch with Gemma’s PA to see if she did any work for charity and could maybe help us, and the next day Gemma got in touch to ask what she could do.

“The coffee shop is a great asset to the charity but the furniture is a little dull and lack lustre with old furniture that and needs a bit of TLC, so it’s all very exciting, and we can’t wait to see what it will look like when she’s worked her magic.”

Coffee shop manager Amy Pollard
Coffee shop manager Amy Pollard

Mencap Cottage in Mariners Road became the HQ for the local charity, which provides services, activities and volunteering opportunities for adults with mild and moderate learning disabilities, in 2018 after the Liverpool and South Sefton branches were merged.

Marianne explains: “We used to have an office in Liverpool city centre, and South Sefton Mencap was in based at Mencap Cottage, but they were finding it hard to keep their group going and there was a real risk the cottage would have to close.

“So the then chief executive of Liverpool Mencap decided we would merge and use the base at the cottage which was more of a community base by the beach. (We still have activities that go on in Liverpool city centre but we just don’t have a permanent base).

“The coffee shop opened in April last year, so we could involve the community more, and our members could have an opportunity to gain work experience, raising the visibility of people with learning disabilities within the community,” says Marianne.

“We have community and corporate volunteers who come in and work alongside our member volunteers, we have room hires going on now with different organisations like parent and baby groups, and yoga groups, for example, and Crosby Camera Club held an exhibition at the cottage recently.  Local artists sell their work through the coffee shop and we want to make it a really welcome and inclusive space so everyone can interact as equals.”

Mencap Liverpool and Sefton Coffee Shop
Mencap Liverpool and Sefton Coffee Shop

Since the two centres combined, the mission has been to create the physically accessible space the community needs and, as the cottage was built in 1908, it needs lots of improvements to make it accessible, energy efficient, and financially viable.

Work needs to be done to make the first floor accessible to those with additional mobility needs, but until it can get the funding to do that, the organisation is doing what it can to make it better now.

Thanks to Lush’s Charity Pot Initiative, it received £3,000 to create an accessible area in the garden, with plans to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs which can be used in the coffee shop.

And Merseyside Waste and Recycling Authority and Veolia donated £8,000 from their Community Fund on the understanding that Mencap Liverpool & Sefton would upcycle 192kg of textiles, and 1.251 tons of furniture – which is where the coffee shop revamp comes in!

Much of the furniture in there is tired and tatty – some of it has come from a nursing home – and Gemma has agreed to lead the way in giving it new life. 

Marianne has got together volunteers to give their time on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and, together with Mencap members – for whom it’ll also provide new skills – and local artists including Sean Webster, Lena from Lena and the Sea, and clothing upcycler Buy by Bethan, Gemma will help to give the café a sustainable overhaul.

“We have chosen a seaside theme because we’re by Crosby beach, so there’ll be lots of blues, greens and yellows – and pinks with a nod to raspberry ripple ice cream. Some of the chairs are Parker Knoll, and artists are going to work on each chair to make it literally a work of art.”

Marianne adds: “It will make it so much brighter and welcoming, and we couldn’t have looked to do it without Gemma’s help. It shows how we can all come together to create something quite wonderful and make things better.

“We are all ripples who, between us, can make waves which, given our location, is very appropriate. So yes, we’re all very happy. Gemma is a really lovely person, and selfless; it restores your faith in humanity and shows the importance and value of people being kind.”

As to how the coffee shop will look come Tuesday? Watch this space!

For more info on Mencap Liverpool & Sefton click here.

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