The Fabulous Far-Flung Folks at Dock Cafe

Seems a strange thing to say with the sun splitting the sky – but Summer is drawing to a close… Today most of our visitors in Dock fullsizerender-24Cafe were locals and regulars – so I thought it would be good to update you on our “customer geomapping project” (i.e. playing with push-pins) during the Summer

The big map beside the counter went up just over a month ago – along with more push-pins than we ever thought we could use.  Wrong!  There’s now a grand total of 5 push-pins left (so be quick if your home isn’t marked yet and you want to claim one of the last few!)

So, over the last couple of weeks, we have welcomed visitors from:
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(in other words, pretty much everywhere)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, prize for the greatest concentration of pins goes to UK and Western Europe – followed by the United States:

Prize for the furthest-flung visitor I think goes to our guest from Stewart Island in New Zealand:
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I’m pretty sure we’ve had visitors from every continent on the planet:


And the “Are you sure, or are you just mucking around” prize is jointly shared between the push-pin in Outer Siberia, and the one in Ostrov Ushakova (what do you mean you’ve never heard of it?  Top of the map, find Franz Josef Land and turn right)


If it does actually turn out that we’ve had visitors from such exotic climes, how awesome would that be!

Nooks and crannies and big big visions

The time: 6pm on Sunday 4th Sept
The place: A sofa in Dock Cafe
The command: BE THERE!

Screen Shot 2016-08-20 at 17.22.49It’s the first Sunday of the month and time for our regular Sunday Nights at The Dock, and this week we’ve got a very special guest: David Gavaghan, the visionary leader who was at the helm of Titanic Quarter throughout the birth and growth of Dock Cafe and Dock Market.  He’ll be sharing his vision for the future of Belfast and dreaming some big dreams for the city… don’t miss it!

A funny thing about vision… sometimes it’s seen more clearly through fresh eyes, by people visiting, than by the sometime-weary gaze of the people who are living in the middle of it.  That was my experience recently reading an amazing blog called Nooks and Crannies of the Irish Coast – written by locals who decide to literally experience EVERY nook and cranny, every activity, attraction, and eatery that the Titanic Quarter can offer!

IMG_6681The whole series of blogs is brilliant and well worth a read – including the writers’ first ride on the Wee Tram – but the latest in the series – Coffee, Craic and a Close-knit Community – brings their TQ experiences to a close by reflecting on the whole area, and is just incredibly moving and describes (better than I ever could) the way vision is becoming reality on a daily basis in the TQ:

I was struck a number of times by the sense of community in the area. It seems as though every business is working together with the shared vision of placing Queen’s Island once again into the daily life of Belfast. One example of this was when we contacted T13 to see if their cafe was still running. They told us that it had unfortunately closed, but they made sure to point us in the direction of other cafes in the area. We have felt incredibly at home in TQ and it’s fantastic to see that Chris Bennett’s dream of a close-knit TQ community has been realised, not just in the Dock Cafe, but in the whole area in just a few short years.

2015-10-30 11.16.56Isn’t that awesome!  When you’re part of a process, sometimes it’s so refreshing to see your work from a new angle – and realise that, whatever the imperfections and challenges that stretch me and stress me day by day, the vision is starting to take hold… the rubber is hitting the road.

And just as I was about to post this blog, I checked the Dock Trip Advisor reviews again (and that’s the last time I’ll mention them for a while, promise!) and found this absolute beauty – which again sums up the entire raison d’etre of the Dock in new words and from a new perspective:
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A long time ago (last weekend) in a galaxy far, far away (a few doors along from the cafe)…

It is a period of civil partying.
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Rebel Marketeers, striking from their hidden base in the ARC apartments, have won their second anniversary.  During the birthday, the Marketeers threw the ultimate shindig, the BIRTHDAY PARTY, with enough cake, celebrating, stormtroopers and sumptuous home-made treats to destroy an entire diet.

OK that’s probably enough trying to echo the Star Wars opening crawl… but it was amazing to see the Stormtroopers take over the TQ on Saturday as part of the fabulous birthday bash for our beloved Dock Market, which has now been showcasing fabulous home-made hand-crafted food, craft and art – as well as restoring peace and freedom to the galaxy (sorry) – for two glorious years.

One of their most brilliant, original and effective ideas was to make Dock Market dog-friendly (complete with its own ‘petiquette’) – so it was perfectly appropriate that the human-friendly birthday cake was accompanied by a dog-friendly version.  Cutting the doggie cake in the very appreciative company of two beautifully-behaved dogs was one of the highlights of my Dock life!

And of course – as always – the quality, imagination and craftsmanship of all the market stalls was a sight to behold:

It was great to meet a whole new bunch of people who made it for the first time in response to the Marketeers’ brilliant social media campaign – and to see lots of their “wow!” responses on the Dock Market Trip Advisor page.  Quotes to cherish: “full of charm”… “the cupcakes are amazing”… “full of colourful character and charm”… “unique and fun – hated saying goodbye!”

IMG_6676On the subject of Trip Advisor – I noticed today that a certain Honesty Box Cafe is at the top of the heap again on its own Dock Cafe Trip Advisor page – though since we’re not really a proper restaurant I expect that someone else will reclaim top spot soon!  But it is genuinely heartwarming to read that so many people found a warm welcome and a safe space in Dock Cafe and wrote a review to say Thanks.  More quotes to cherish:  “very intriguing”… “friendly and welcoming”… “a great atmosphere – so interesting and fun”… “fantastic concept”…

And I love this one – entitled “A loving ambience”, the review continues
If, as my wife and I were, you’re feeling foot-sore and weary after having walked rather too far, you need someone to gently ‘ take you by the hand ‘ advise you what food / drink is available, take your tray and bring you to a table. That’s what happened to us. Even before we’d entered, we sensed that this was a different kind of coffee shop…. And – as we were delighted to find – the volunteer staff are so welcoming. We left feeling that we’d been really cared for – and ready for still more walking / site-seeing.

Well done, that volunteer (it wasn’t me!!)

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So make sure you call in to see what they’re all raving about – put the upcoming Dock Markets in your diary (2nd & 4th Saturday of every month) and get yourself down to the Dock for a cuppa ASAP!