One of Beeston’s hidden gems is the Feel Good Cafe at Hillside, the converted school building near the bottom of Beeston Road. The cafe is run by SLATE who also run The Feel Good Furniture Shop in Hunslet. One of the special things about the Feel Good Cafe is that if you like the table you’re sitting at, you can buy it!
Like most cafes they offer a wide menu of hot and cold sandwiches, hot and cold drinks and a daily lunch special, not forgetting their famous vintage cream teas. But as well as serving excellent refreshments, the Feel Good Cafe provides training and employment for people with learning difficulties.
I spoke to Lyn who has been volunteering at the cafe for just over a year. When she first arrived she tended to look at the floor and avoid eye contact with other people. She started working in the kitchen, learning different aspects of food preparation, such as preparing salads. Gradually her confidence improved as she got to know the staff and other volunteers.
“Now I serve customers at the counter and I’m much more confident to speak to new people.
“I really look forward to coming to work. It helps me get out of my bedroom when I’m down.”
Cafe Manager Helen explains their work with volunteers is just one of the ways The Feel Good Cafe works to be more than just a cafe. On Wednesdays she runs a cookery class after the cafe closes.
“It’s about teaching parents and children how to cook and prepare meals from scratch. We cook with fresh ingredients and learn techniques such as peeling chopping vegetables safely.
“Each family prepare their meal together at a table then bring it through to the kitchen to cook it. Finally they sit down together to eat their meal.
“Eating together is a very important time, but many families don’t spend that time together.”
The cafe provides an important first step on the employment ladder. Their first apprentice now runs his own small cafe and their second works in another part of SLATE. Volunteers Sam and Danielle are now employed on part time contracts.
As a staff team they have staged charity events raising over £1,000 for the Marie Curie cancer charity.
The Feel Good Cafe is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 3:30pm.