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Cafe volunteers connect their community in Cathays

A CAFE which was set up to being local people together in Cathays is continuing to grow in popularity.

The Meeting Room Café opens once a month and is run by volunteers in the Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Teilo, in Woodville Road. It serves homemade, ethically sourced vegan and vegetarian food and shows live music. 

Cathays residents Jane Poole, 64, and Gwen Stubbs, 55, attend The Meeting Room Café each month. 

“I mainly come here to support the church, but it’s also about getting out of the house on a Saturday morning and chatting with lovely company,” said Ms Poole. 

Mrs Stubbs said: “It’s somewhere nice to come and have a chat with friends and I like that it supports the church.” 

Another customer, Pat Lauwerys, 78, from Mynachdy said she goes to the café because she can relax, talk to her friends and enjoy the food. 

Jane Poole, Gwen Stubbs and Pat Lauwerys.

Cathays is a densely student populated area, with 70% of its 20,000 residents students at the time of the 2011 census. 

However, this means families, pensioners and working adults still make up around 6,000 people. 

Volunteers at The Meeting Room Café aim to create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome, no matter who they are. 

Kirstie Miller, 31, from Grangetownis the social media volunteer. 

She said: “People like the relaxing community vibe and I think it is important for the community to meet up and eat together. Despite the café’s religious setting, everyone is welcome. 

Vegan and vegetarian cakes at the cafe.

Gerry Payne, 61, from Penarthcollects money and food orders at the café each month. 

She said: “It’s important for the community and for the church to show that we are open to anyone, but people don’t have to come to the church if they go to The Meeting Room Café.” 

The Meeting Room Café started in 2013 but functioned for five years without a kitchen. 

Despite its makeshift format, loyal customers from Cathays and beyond kept the café going. 

Volunteer Alex Thacker, 29, from Cathays, said that the community effort didn’t go unnoticed. 

He said: “We’d done this for a long time without a kitchen. We then got a few grants, including one from the council, because we focus on connecting the community. 

“It allowed us to have a kitchen in July 2018, which is in keeping with the church building.” 

(Left to right) Kirstie Miller, Rev Caroline Downs and Alex Thacker all volunteer at the cafe.

The café received £20,000 from the council and £7,000 from the Diocese towards the kitchen and to continue supporting the community. 

Kitchen staff make hot meals, such as vegan chilli, soups and  toasties, while volunteers bring in cakes to sell.

Cathays Councillor Sarah Merry said: “The Meeting Room Café is a reminder of how mixed a community Cathays is; everyone goes there from young families, to students, to pensioners.   

Places that bring people together are so important, particularly in somewhere like Cathays where the population is so mobile and diverse.”

Reverend Caroline Downs is the vicar of the parish of Cathays, which includes the Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Teilo. 

Her son was amongst the first volunteers who set up The Meeting Room Café in 2013. 

She said: “It was set up by my son and his friends to use the building for people who are not necessarily church goers but want somewhere to meet people. 

It’s vegan and vegetarian because the group who started it up were either vegan or vegetarian, so we decided to keep it ethical.  

“Wget all kinds of people coming and friendships have been made.  

It means a lot to me because many people are lonely and wouldn’t go to a regular coffee shop and expect to talk to other peoplebut herepeople feel like they can.” 

  • The café runs on the first Saturday of each month 11am – 2pm  
  • On 6 April, The Meeting Room Café has a vegan chocolate stall