On the corner of London Road and James Street in the Boothen/Stoke/nearly Oakhill area of the city used to stand The West End Pub. Said pub is now unrecognisable as it has been transformed completely into a new church, along with a cafe and community centre. The congregations at Trent Vale Methodist church and Wesley Methodist Church sold their buildings and joined together a few years ago with the vision of finding a new site from which they could serve their community. After purchasing the derelict pub and a great deal of fundraising, building work & hard graft, they opened in January 2015 receiving a great response.
Since then, the Cafe West End has gone from strength to strength. To say the atmosphere is welcoming is a gross understatement; I really am confident that any kind of person could walk right in from London Road and be treated like an old friend. Unsurprisingly perhaps, as clearly this is what happens when you run a coffee shop to serve the needs of your community rather than to make a profit. While the cafe prices might be cheap (80p for a mug of tea, £2 cappuccinos & £2 bacon sandwiches) to ensure everyone can enjoy the food & drinks on offer, the quality is as top notch as any other outlet in the hospitality sector. The cappuccinos require a particularly special mention as Cafe West End will be joining tsp. Cafe, Hanley for winning the ‘excellent-coffee-without-the-funny-aftertaste’ award! An important accolade, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Nonetheless, meeting the needs of the neighbourhood goes far beyond the new swanky cafe for the congregation at West End which can be seen in the variety of projects and activities that are both already established and in the pipeline. Playhouse, a group for pre-schoolers and their parents & carers, provides a safe space for toddlers to play together and the potential for their carers to make new friends too. Similarly, ‘Family, Fun & Food’ offers a variety of activities and a hot meal for all ages to enjoy. In times when family life has become so hectic and chaotic, these kinds of occasions bring an opportunity for families to spend time together. There are also plans to establish a distribution centre for the Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank at the church, bringing the emergency supplies that foodbank gives a little bit closer to Stoke town, Boothen, Oakhill and other nearby areas whose nearest distribution centre currently is Temple Street, Fenton.
As you can see from the previous paragraphs, if there’s one thing that jumps out at you when visiting the West End it’s the overwhelming desire that exists to do good in the ‘hood. Every inch of space in the new building has been carefully planned and designed in order to achieve the most good possible for the most people possible and that is an incredible witness to the faith that this project was built on. So if you’re ever passing by or in the Stoke/Boothen/nearly Oakhill vicinity, I’m sure the folk at the West End would love to welcome you and share a cake!
The West End Methodist Church & cafe opening times: http://www.westendmethodistchurchstoke.org/
Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank: http://stokeontrent.foodbank.org.uk/