Live from Dock Cafe…

As Storm Doris blasted through the UK on Thursday, Chris Buckler and the BBC News team needed a safe, dry place where they could film their live broadcasts about the NI elections.  A place where every interviewee they had lined up, every politician of every party, would feel welcome.  A place where the new Northern Ireland is being built day by day.  A place where the coffee is good and the craic is mighty.  Can you guess where they chose…?

And so throughout Thursday BBC News kept cutting live to the morning bustle, the lunchtime madness and the afternoon chill of Dock Cafe.  By the end of the day every political party had been featured and had a chance to chip in – although it was a close-run thing as Emma Pengelly, stuck in traffic, still hadn’t arrived when the last live link of the day had started – but in the nick of time, she burst through the door to breathlessly share the last interview with Máirtín Ó Muilleoir – nail-biting TV for those behind the camera at least!

One of the amazing aspects of the day was the way that Chris Buckler used the background and ethos of Dock Cafe to introduce many of the links.  From the ‘Pin Where You Come From’ map to the beautiful artwork on the walls of the cafe, the hope and positivity of The Dock was a great visual lead-in to the questions and challenges facing the candidates and interviewees.  “This election is all about Honesty – and so here we are, in the Honesty Box Cafe” was my favourite!

All great fun and fascinating to watch.  I’m hopeful that the informal surroundings of a cafe rather than the confrontational setup of a TV debate studio created some warmth and humour between the candidates.   And across party boundaries there was lots of love for the Dock!

And although I popped up in one of the interviews, I think I’m very VERY happy doing what I’m doing rather than running for office – despite Mark Simpson’s best efforts… Thankfully #votevicar is not trending!


Our toilet has a twin!

If you’ve ever been stuck in the Queue For The Loo at Dock Cafe, you will have wished fervently that we had a second toilet.  Well now we do (sort of) – it’s just that it’s about 6,644 miles away!

Dock Cafe’s toilet is now twinned through Toilet Twinning with a latrine in Kagandu village in Uganda.  Any toilet can be twinned with a loo in the developing world; one in three people worldwide don’t have a loo – and the consequences for poor hygiene, communication of disease, and lack of personal safety (especially for women) are catastrophic.

It doesn’t cost the Earth to twin your loo – and when you do, you get a cool little certificate, like the one which now proudly resides on Dock Cafe’s toilet, with a picture of its twin and GPS co-ordinates of its location so you can check it out on Google Maps!

It’s kinda appropriate that Dock Cafe’s loo is now providing a gift to others – as it was itself a gift, a massively generous (and massively appreciated) donation from a group of builders who frequented Dock Cafe in the early days.  I’ll never forget the moment when they arrived through the doors of Dock Cafe, bearing the porcelain in their arms, to announce that they were going to install our very first toilet!

You can see the whole story (and find out the answer to the pressing question, what did we do before there was a loo?!) in this little video:

And if you’re inspired by seeing the difference that one toilet has made in our lives in the Dock, in this developed part of the world, just think how much a toilet can transform lives in parts of the world that can’t take sanitation for granted.  So get twinning!

What a movement we will begin!  It won’t be money down the drain.  I second that motion!  And so on (insert your own pun here)

The Market Strikes Back

We love our unique, creative, imaginative Dock Marketeers!  In just over two years, they have grown from a tiny collection of artisans selling their wares from a little pop-up stall in Dock Cafe, to a mighty collective trading on alternate Saturdays from their own space in the ARC apartments:

And then just before Christmas they took their biggest leap of faith yet: moving Dock Market to the Odyssey Pavilion to introduce a whole new community of customers to their beautiful hand-crafted products and bespoke brilliance.

And now the Market is back! Every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month, starting this Saturday (11th February) from 11am to 5pm, you will find them trading, baking, painting, cooking, chatting, creating and just generally being brilliant as you walk through the Odyssey pavilion from the front doors to W5.

As always the Market is dog-friendly with special treats and much love for your four-legged friends.  And this weekend it is Ginger-Friendly as well! – to celebrate Ginger Pride day, there will be special ginger-themed products on offer.  And we will be nice to gingers.  As if it is ever otherwise!

So call in this weekend and see what all the fuss is about.  And then dander on across the marina for a cup of Dock Brew in Dock Cafe, collapse on a squashy sofa and watch the world go by.  It’s what weekends are made for!

Hello & Welcome

The message that faces you on the big yellow crane as you arrive in Dock Cafe kinda says it all.  It’s a bit of a mission statement.

EVERYONE is welcome.  That maybe goes without saying; I hope that every single person coming in through the doors of Dock Cafe feels safe, loved, welcomed and warm.  But it’s a bit of a scary world out there at the minute so I thought that it was just worth saying: EVERYONE is welcome.

One of the great joys of Dock Cafe is the great privilege of being part of this big chaotic multicultural jumble of human life.  It does my heart good to look out across the noisy babble of the Dock and see people from every culture, creed and community sharing a cuppa, a conversation and a good belly laugh.  If the global events of the last few weeks are making you anxious, I prescribe a visit to the Dock to just sit on a squashy sofa, being part of Life in the Titanic Quarter.  It’s good medicine.

Sometimes in the local news, the loudness of the tribal drums suggests that nothing really changes.  I look out across the Dock and I know that it does.  Sometimes in the global news, the proposed walls and closing borders suggest that welcoming the stranger isn’t worth the risk.  I look out across the Dock and I know that it is.

Every day we live with risk: that the Honesty Box will be abused, that our welcome will be spurned, that our friendship  will be taken for granted.  It is worth it.  For as much as we can play our part in building community life in this new part of Belfast, we will live with the risk – and the joy – of this core value: EVERYONE is welcome.

Two events in the next few days are a good example of the rubber hitting the road of this ethos: first, on Sunday night at 6pm in the cafe, it’s our monthly Sunday Nights At The Dock, which from the start has been an informal, coffee-fuelled, joyful exploration of what it means to worship and pray together across our denominational boundaries. This Sunday we’ll be starting a new series looking at ‘Roots Of Resilience’ – finding deep strength in stressful seasons – possibly timely!

Then on Monday night we’ll be starting The English Corner, our new weekly conversation classes for those learning English (please note the new start time of 4:45).

People gathering in a cafe for worship and prayer and good strong coffee on a Sunday evening; a team of teachers and students getting to grips with phrases like “bout ye, big lad” – it maybe does’t look world-changing.   But it gives me inexpressible hope that living with an open heart and attitude is possible.  And it’s better.  And it’s just more fun!

Learn to speak English good!

A new year means lots of new bright ideas at The Dock – and The English Corner is one of the brightest yet…


Lots of our customers in Dock Cafe come from all over the world – but for those who are settling here (and sometimes, for those who want to volunteer at Dock Cafe) there’s often a bit of a language barrier – especially when a bunch of Belfast locals get chatting to each other!

The English Corner will be led by Jackie, one of the Volunteers in the café.  She has been a teacher here in Northern Ireland for 30 years and has taught English to Chinese students in Jilin University, Changchun for 3 semesters, living in China for almost 2 years.  She has recruited a number of retired teachers to help in this project.
The idea is to give foreign students a class where they can practise and improve their English – and maybe even learn some ‘conversational Northern Irish’ as well!

So if having a bit of banter with yer wee mucker when it’s baltic out leaves you scundered and holding yer wheesht and saying “Here’s me wha?” rather than enjoying the craic, then catch yourself on and get stuck in!
(translation: if you haven’t a clue what any of this means, maybe the English Corner is for you!)

You can pick up an application form at Dock Cafe or click here:
English corner app final
All students must be aged 18 or over.  Classes will start at the beginning of February and you’ll also get to enjoy a mug of tasty soup and meet some new friends as well as practising your language skills.

Beezer!  Keep ‘er lit!