New Belfast

One of the cornerstones of Dock life is that we’re about hope, good news and all that is positive about our city – we want to be part of building the New Belfast.

photo-34So it was a great pleasure to invite the selfie-tweeting ex-Mayor with pink hair, Mairtin O’Muilleoir to our Sunday Night in Dock Cafe last week.  His hair is no longer pink, he has passed the Mayor’s blingtastic jewellery to his successor, Nichola Mallon (of whom more soon!), but he is still a formidable force for hope, life, change, optimism and joy in all that is good about Belfast.  With Mairtin, ‘New Belfast’ is not just his Twitter handle but his way of life.

2014-09-07 18.47.46In a candid and fascinating interview with Fr Martin Magill, Mairtin shared the joys of working together with faith communities (whom he found to be the people actually on the ground doing the lion’s share of practical care for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised of the city), forming the Lord Mayor’s team of Chaplains, promoting the  positive image of a New Belfast overseas, and being part of the formation of the ‘Prayer For Belfast’  (in which we all joined at the conclusion of his interview).

2014-09-07 18.58.14For someone who keeps claiming to not be religious, Mairtin certainly preached it… It was impossible not to get swept along by his love for the city, his optimism for its future, and his conviction that people of faith have a part to play… In his words, “This is a super city – it needs super churches more than Super Councils!”

And I’m happy to report that his love for the selfie has not diminished one iota!
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The ‘new Belfast’ also manifested itself in an unexpected way last Friday in, of all things, the aftermath of the news of Ian Paisley’s death.

Screenshot 2014-09-17 21.10.12BBC reporter Chris Buckley was sent out around the city to film the reactions of its people (and a sterling job he did too)… He found, inevitably, some for whom Paisley could no wrong, and some for whom he could do no right.  And to give balance to the report, he wanted to interview some young people (and, er, me) in a new part of the city – the New Belfast to contrast with the old.  Where else, but to the Titanic Quarter, bathed in golden evening light, and to Dock Cafe, where a friendly cuppa awaited him! (even if it was slammed down on the counter rather over-enthusiastically – sorry about that):

What an unexpected honour to be part of a report that went out not just across NI, but on the national 10 o’clock news across the UK.  And to be aligned with the new city we’re building, where No is becoming Yes, where peace is taking root, where the past is a preface rather than a prison… the New Belfast.

This is The Dock – Shrexpanded!

Well!  I am so, so proud of the amazing Dock volunteers, I can hardly put it into words!  (I’m very tired…)

2014-09-12 11.14.40They’ve taken  what could’ve been a disaster and turned it into a fantastic opportunity for a whole new chapter of the Dock story – and they’ve put in an incredible week of back-breaking work racing against the clock to get Dock Cafe open to the public again today.  Much, much love to them all.

The story so far: as Life in the Titanic Quarter continues to blossom and grow, our wonderful next-door neighbours in the Mace need to expand – Bw9OhjaIUAACaqQ.jpg-largeso The Dock needs to become a wee bit more – well – wee.  (not exactly tiny – we’re still 4/5 of our original size and surely one of the biggest cafe spaces in Belfast!)

At our fantastic Sunday night service with Mairtin O’Muilleoir (more on which another time!) we cleared the tables and chairs out of that final fifth for the last time, having celebrated and given thanks for all the conversations, meetings, cuppas, laughs, friendships and blessings to take place  in that section over the years:

And then the work began…

Furniture moved, floor painted, new walls built, pictures moved, layout changed, coffee bar revolutionised…  A complete transformation, and the place now looks a million gajillion times (approx) better than it ever has.  (despite the fact that we ran against the deadline a bit and still have a good few pictures to put up!)

Here are just a few of the new cosy corners and lovely little nooks and crannies where you can just imagine kicking back with a cup of tea and letting all your worries slip away…

But! you say – How will you cope with being smaller, given that during busy lunchtimes (i.e. every lunchtime) the place was always bunged to the rafters before this shrinkage took place?

Well, that’s the ‘shrexpansion’ side of the whole equation – because as well as creating an earthly paradise in Dock Cafe, the amazing team also moved a good few of our tables and chairs, some retro furniture, and a coffee-making setup (complete with plumbing-in the water supply) just down the road to Dock Market.
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2014-09-12 12.37.02While the market will still be used on alternate Saturdays (like TOMORROW!) as our funky, eclectic Dock Market, full of local crafts and food and creative wonders, it will also now be open from 12-2 each lunchtime.

Ladeees and gentlemen… (dramatic drum roll)… introducing The Dock’s Pop-Up Picnic!

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The pop-up picnic is just a big space for community – a bit rough around the edges at this stage, but it really reminds me of what Dock Cafe looked like in the early days!

We opened for the first time today and these brave pathfinders made history by being the very first customers of the Pop-Up Picnic:
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– but I’m sure there will be plenty more as time goes on – especially judging by the woebegone faces of people eating their sandwiches on the cold stone steps outside the cafe on the days we were closed!
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So – an incredible week, and a very exciting new chapter for the Dock cafe/market/picnic/church ever-expanding story.  Massive, massive thanks to the people who made it happen, for being part of another unforgettable week of Life in the Titanic Quarter.

Shrexpansion… and Sunday Night On Nomadic (Not On Nomadic)

Today’s update is all about The Dock’s Shrexpansion, and Sunday Night On Nomadic (Not On Nomadic).  What does it all MEAN?

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What is Shrexpansion?
We love our next door neighbours in the Mace and Green Deli – they cook our soup, make our Saturday-morning Ulster Fry-ups, lodge our loose change from the Honesty Box, and are just generally great neighbours and great mates! However the time has come in their business life to expand their storage capacity – which means that The Dock Cafe will have to shrink just a leeeetle bit smaller.

BWB_6634However all is not lost – while the cafe space is getting smaller, The Dock Market is getting bigger, better and more popular all the time – so we’ve hit on the bright idea of using the tables and chairs of The Dock Market as an overflow area for big groups or busy lunchtimes. So, we’re shrinking, but in a way we’re expanding. Shrexpansion!

photo-26And so The Dock Cafe will be closed from Mon 8th – Thur 11th September to allow the Shrexpansion to happen. If you’d like to be part of the team moving, painting, fixing, changing, hammering, cleaning, re-arranging and generally just shrexpanding Dock Cafe – giving it a bit of a mid-year spruce-up as well as developing our new layout – just let James or Joachim know when you’re free, and wear some old clothes that you won’t mind getting dirty!

And then get ready for the Grand Opening of The Dock Cafe version 4.0 (is it?! – I’m losing count!) next Friday!

What is Sunday Night On Nomadic (Not On Nomadic)?
nomadic-july-flyer-w-headerDue to a double-booking on board SS Nomadic, we’ll be holding our next Sunday service on 7th September at 6pm in The Dock Cafe rather than on board ship – hence the snappy title.

photo-35And since that’s the last thing to happen in the cafe before we close for shrexpansion, that actually gives us the perfect chance to say farewell to our beloved shabby-chic no.1-rated big cafe/living room/home-away-from-home in its current incarnation before the transformation starts, Peter Capaldi-stylee, into its new shape on Monday morning. Tears may be shed!

photo-34Mairtin O’Muilleoir (aka the selfie-tweeting ex-Mayor with pink hair) will be our special guest at the service, telling the story of the creation of the Prayer For Belfast, and sharing some tales of his time at the frontline of the life of Belfast City during a very dramatic year. See you there!