The Open House Café, a new initiative by the New Vic Theatre and their Creative People and Places programme Appetite, will offer people living in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent an opportunity to connect with their fellow community members over a hot drink when it launches on Tuesday 4 May.

Offering people a place to meet, socialise and make new friends, it is hoped the coffee mornings will help aid the social recovery of local communities post-pandemic by encouraging new personal connections to form.

The initial pilot events, funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Loneliness Programme, invite people across North Staffordshire to meet at the New Vic Theatre in Basford for enriching conversations with friendly faces as the country transitions out of lockdown. The events will have creative activity on offer for visitors to engage with if they wish to do so, as well as free tea and coffee.

Set up by the theatre’s Education department and Appetite, in conjunction with the catering team, Open House Cafe will run from 10 to 11am every Tuesday from 4 – 25 May. The first two coffee mornings will be outside to comply with government safety guidelines, before the theatre building reopens and the group moves inside to the café area from Tuesday 18 May.

Open House particularly wants to reach out to those feeling isolated or lonely in the community, but everyone is welcome. The aim is to see friendly faces from across the community socialise, form bonds of friendship, and combat loneliness. Hosted by New Vic staff and volunteers, in addition to free tea and coffee, a limited ‘elevenses’-style menu is on offer for those who wish to purchase a bite to eat.

New Vic Head of Education Jill Rezzano said: “We know from our continuing work with the local community online over lockdown, how much everyone has longed for the chance to meet for a conversation and a cuppa, and to feel properly connected again. We also know that for many people, the past year has brought many challenges and we want the New Vic to be a particularly welcoming space for our community. Working with Appetite is a perfect way of bringing people together at Open House. We can’t wait to serve up a warm and welcoming slice of cheerful chat and meet with members of our valued community in-person again.”

Appetite Director Gemma Thomas said: “Appetite is really pleased to be working with colleagues in Education to pilot the Open House Café. We’ve been delivering other projects as part of this fund from Arts Council England and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: we created Appetite at Home, delivering packs to people’s homes and creating space online for people to meet others and try an activity, Just for you: Middleport, a project with local people who are shaping artworks from the things they love about the area and an upcoming project for families too. What research about, and experience of, the pandemic has shown is that loneliness and feelings of isolation can, and have, affected us all. It’s with this in mind that we wanted to throw open the doors of our home and lead organisation, the New Vic, to welcome people back to the theatre’s café, create new connections and relax amongst others in a laid-back atmosphere with a free cuppa.”

Open House coffee mornings will be held every Tuesday, 10 to 11am, from Tuesday 4 to Tuesday 25 May 2021, no booking required. The New Vic café will also be serving food and drinks following Open House, from 11am to 2pm on Tuesday 4 and Tuesday 11 May.

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