We have been looking for a full-time permanent home for 3 years and we’ve finally found one. The Meriden Gardens site has been offered to us by a local housing trust at an incredibly low rent but has been neglected for over a year and needs some serious TLC. We plan to community build a purpose built multi-use space for our shop and cafe, refit one of the garages into a fully accessible toilet and changing area and renew the gardens to become a community garden.
Why do we need a permanent home?
For the past three years Random Café has held pop up cafés and shops using food collected from supermarkets that was destined for landfill. The food has either reached its best before, has damaged packaging or is surplus. We make this into yummy meals and serve it in our café. What we don’t use in the café goes to stock our shop. Everything we do is on a ‘Pay As You Feel’ basis. This means guests can pay for their meals and shopping in money, time or skills, which are just as valuable. We believe PAYF really encourages us all to think about the real value of food; the time, resource and energy that has gone into producing it.
We’re proud of our success over the last 3 years – we’ve saved over 50 tonnes of food from landfill! But relying on pop-up venues with pricey hire charges limits what we can do – because we can only open once a week and have no permanent storage. Having a full-time home for our shop and café means we can open six days a week. We will substantially increase the amount of food we can save, feed so many more people who really need it and become a hub for the local community.
Meriden Gardens at the heart of our community
We want to bring together the local community. Even before lockdown, customers told us one of the main reasons for visiting Random Café was to meet other people. With community centres closed during lockdown, many social activities have stopped and a lot of our local community still feel isolated. We want the gardens and cafe to be at the heart of the community, helping people get together and feel less lonely. (See our FAQs below for info about how we will keep visitors safe).
Improving our environment
It’s a large project and the Random Team and local community are very excited to start and make this a fabulous space accessible to everyone. At the heart of this project is the community garden. In the early stages of our project our own volunteers have been working alongside young people from The Princes Trust who have done a fantastic job helping us to clear the gardens of weeds and rubbish.
We are planning fruit trees, flowers, plants, and raised vegetable beds, which will supply food for our new on-site café. We will grow the food to complement what we get in our waste food collections, to make delicious meals for customers.
By planting trees, shrubs, bee-friendly bedding plants and a range of colourful flowers in our little corner of the community, we’re not just doing our bit to help the local flora and fauna, but we’ll be improving the air quality in our town.
Building a community space
The next part of realising our dream is to community build a new multi-use building. As well as providing a cafe area, we want to eventually host a whole range of classes, courses and events. As a starter we will offer gardening workshops and cooking classes using produce from the garden. Not green-fingered? How about coming along to a Knit and Natter morning, our Reason to Read Book Club, or afternoon tea? We want to hear what kind of classes and events you want to see at Meriden Gardens – this is your garden too after all!
What do we mean by ‘community build’? We’ve secured the support of a local construction company to lay the foundations and build the basic shell of a building (in the space you see below!). We’d then aim to get local tradespeople, suppliers, supporters and volunteers to donate their time and skills to help us complete the build.
Why support us?
With your support, we can achieve something unique for our local community – a place for people to get together, learn, spend time enjoying a beautiful outdoor space and do something positive for the environment at the same time. There’s no other place like this in Watford.
Once up and running, we plan for our activities to be self-sustaining. With income from our Pay As You Feel café and shop, as well as from workshops and events, we are confident of being able to cover our relatively low costs.
We need your help to get our project off to the best start. By pledging your support today, you will help us create a space for our community to enjoy for years to come.
How will we invest your money?
By pledging today, you will help us embark on a new chapter of our story.
So far we’ve managed to beg and borrow (but not steal) much of the equipment we’ve needed to work on the site and with the help of our volunteers have already started transforming the site.
We’re now eager to start running the shop from the site – your support today will help us get the space at the front of the gardens up and running as an outdoor market area, helping us maintain social distancing, reduce queuing indoors and provide shelter for customers during the winter months.
Then we need to get building! The money you pledge today will help us kick-off our community build. Your support will quite literally help us lay the foundations for our new café and community space.
Our Random Bunch
Café owner and Project Lead Jane has 11 years’ experience in the catering and food industries and has driven Random Café forward since founding it 3 years ago.
Over the last 18 months we’ve held our pop-up café at Meriden Community Centre and got to know the local community. We’ve become well known in the local area, delivering food boxes to families and holding a regular pop-up shops throughout lockdown, all of which have helped almost 3400 people.
We’ve built links with numerous community groups e.g. the New Hope Trust, MIND, The Princes Trust and Watford Mencap, who are keen to use Meriden Gardens once the project is up and running. We’ve also established relationships with the town council, Mayor and Local Councillors, all of whom are supportive of our project. In 2019 we won the Audentior Pride in Watford award for our positive impact on the local environment. We know there’s a local need and a belief in us to take on this work.
We have a dedicated team of nearly twenty volunteers from various backgrounds. With expertise in finance, marketing, retail, project management, social media, fundraising and community development (phew!) our volunteers give us the right mix of skills to make this project a success. Our team has one thing in common: a passion for our local community and the environment.
1) How come you need to crowdfund, won’t the donations people make for food cover the costs?
Pay As You Feel donations, as well as other fundraising events we run, have helped us pay for everything we’ve achieved so far. But like other organisations, we’ve seen our income reduced because we’ve not been able to open our café for several months during the lockdown. The offer of a permanent home to start realising our dream is something we can’t turn down – even after a challenging few months. This is an ambitious project for us and we will not be able to cover the costs of transforming this space without additional funds – which is why we’d love it if you pledged your support today!
2) What about social distancing? How will you keep people safe around the site?
We’ve been running a mini-market three times a week right throughout lockdown with strict safety measures in place. All our volunteers have become used to working and interacting with customers at social distance. One of the best things about our new home is the large size of the site – and the fact that much of what we plan to do is outdoors. This means volunteers will be able to keep social distance easily, we will be able to devise a one-way route round the site and we’ll be able to space tables safely around eating areas to help small groups of visitors keep safe.
3)Will the site be fully accessible?
Our plan is to make the whole site as fully accessible as possible. This will be achieved by clearing and widening pathways and by converting one of the garages to be a fully accessible toilet and changing area. Our plans for the café build include ramp access and a widened doorways.
4) Can I volunteer with you?
Right now our priority is to hit our crowdfunding target, so we’d love it if you’re able to pledge your support, however large or small your donation. But we’re always keen to recruit volunteers and are particularly looking for people with DIY, gardening and woodworking skills as well as people who have professional experience of project managing building projects. Please drop us a line at email@example.com if you have time and skills to offer – we’d love to hear from you.
5) I don’t live in Watford, can I still support you?
Absolutely! It’s great to have you on board! We welcome support from all over the UK because as well as being a project rooted in our local community, our work has a national impact too. We’re connected to a national organisation called The Real Junk Food Project, which is working to reduce food waste across the UK. By supporting us, you’ll be part of a national effort to get more people thinking about the true value of food and reducing waste in their own lives. We’ve already saved over 50 tonnes of food from landfill – this project will help us save even more. So please pledge your support today!