All posts by Chris

The most wonderful place in the world (at the most wonderful time of the year)

It’s the last day of Dock Cafe in 2017.   From tomorrow, we’re closed until 5th January – a new year, new adventures.  But for now, I’m just taking a moment to look around me and give thanks for 2017 and every moment we’ve shared in this special place.

As I sit here sipping my Christmas coffee, Life is happening all around me.

Two old-timers are putting the world to rights.  (don’t worry I’m not saying that to their faces – they look a bit scary).

There’s a little family at the next table figuring out how to work a very-complicated-looking Transformers-type toy they’ve just opened.

There’s a student sitting bashing away at his laptop – looks like there’s an assignment due before the end of term…

There’s a bunch of new customers carefully reading the ‘How The Dock Works’ sign – I can tell from the surprise on their faces when they’ve reached the line ‘This is an honesty box cafe – the amount you pay is up to you’ – that expression never gets old!

There’s a tableful of people – looks like maybe a school reunion? – chatting away nineteen-to-the-dozen.

Right next to them there’s a tour guide from Titanic Belfast with his headphones on and his eyes closed – looks like he’s enjoying the one brief moment today when he doesn’t have to speak to anyone!

A couple of cyclists have just piled in out of the cold, rosy-cheeked and struggling off their helmets, gloves, bags and coats so that they can warm up with a steaming mug of hot punch.

Martin the volunteer is singing along to ‘White Christmas’ on the stereo.  He’s hitting most of the notes!

One of the other volunteers is showing off an old photo album to the rest of the team, accompanied by shrieks of laughter.

There’s a little boy deciding where to put his pin in the ‘Pin Where You Come From’ map.  He eventually plumps for the middle of the Bering Sea.  His dad regretfully (but very honestly) moves the pin a bit closer to home!

It’s all just beautiful.  The buzz of conversation and fun and love around the tables is giving me goosebumps… this must be that ‘Christmas spirit’ everyone is looking for!

And all that is just one snapshot of one person’s view from one table at one moment in one day of the life of Dock Cafe.  Multiply that snapshot by 100,000 (that’s how many customers we reckon we’ve had through the doors this year), or by the countless moments from all the meetings and memories that were born in Dock Cafe in 2017, and you’ll get just the tiniest little glimpse of why we love this crazy place so much.

So – it’s the last day of Dock Cafe in 2017.  But what days they have been… Thank-you, thank-you to everyone who has been part of the journey.

Hark! The Herald Dockies Sing

Well that was some perfect 110%-proof Christmassiness!

Our Titanic Christmas gathering last Saturday included the crooning of carols by candlelight, the lighting of the TQ Christmas Tree, Abseiling Santa proving that he don’t need no chimney (while we sang that well-known Christmas favourite ‘Santa Claus is coming down the ARC’), and a guest appearance from Aladdin and Jasmine from the forthcoming SSE Arena panto to lead us in ‘Jingle Bells’…

And of course – Santa jumped!

It was great to see Dock Cafe rammed to the rafters with cheery carollers – and it made me just so thankful for the amazing community that has formed here in Titanic Quarter year-on-year.

I had a wee check back through the archives and realised that this was actually our eighth Titanic Christmas – it’s quite incredible to track the changes down through the years.

The very first gathering saw a handful of people gathered around a blazing brazier in an empty shop unit on a snowy night in December 2010:

This is how it all began…

As the years went by, every year seemed to be bigger and better than the last.  Although we were always based at the ARC (even before there was a Dock Cafe!), we did moonlight occasionally to the Odyssey for abseiling Santa or to SS Nomadic for our mulled wine and mince pies:

But the heart and soul of the thing has always been watching the Dock regulars, the Titanic Quarter community, faces aglow with candlelight, singing and smiling and meeting and melting the cold of a December night with the warmth of a new community.

Life in the Titanic Quarter – it’s growing all the time…

The Dock Solves Christmas

Stop rushing around, pull up a chair, and let the Dock solve some of your most pressing Christmas problems…

Problem: What to buy the people who have everything
Solution: Dock Market

The Dock Market is amazing! Our little pop-up local craft market, which started in the ARC and expanded into the Odyssey, has now secured a chalet right at the entrance to the Continental Market at City Hall!

You can’t miss it – just on the left hand side of the main entrance gates you’ll see our wooden chalet jam-packed with gorgeous unique hand-made loveliness.  Every single product has been created with care and craft by the lovely marketeers who are manning the stall.

So step out of the stampede – say No to mass-produced tat – and fill your loved-ones’ stockings with beautiful artisan products made with love.

The Dock Market stall (and all the rest of the continental market yumminess, from antelopes to bratwurst to churros) is open every day until 23rd Dec.

Problem: How to get in the Christmas spirit
Solution: A Titanic Christmas on Sat 9th Dec

Yes!  It’s becoming as much a part of Christmas as reindeer jumpers. A Titanic Christmas starts at 4pm on Saturday 9th December and features flying elves, abseiling Santa, candlelit carols, hot punch, Christmas lights switch-on (this year featuring an actual honest-to-goodness gigantic community Christmas tree!)

Mark it in your diary NOW!

Here’s a little taster from last year to whet your appetite:

Problem: flippin’ Slade and Band Aid in every flippin’ shop for the next 5 flippin’ weeks
Solution: Dock Cafe’s Christmas Playlist

Every year in Dock Cafe we lovingly create a Christmas playlist with something a bit different from the usual ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas’ soundtrack.

A little bit folky, a smidge bluesy, a tad leftfield, and a lot more heartfelt (some of the playlist features worship bands like local outfit Rend Collective, who are actually singing carols as heartfelt worship songs rather than tacky Christmas cash-cow tie-ins).

This year’s playlist premieres from today – so call in, grab a cuppa, sink into a sofa, have a listen and relax!  (and any further suggestions for the playlist, which will be constantly updated over the next few weeks, will be gratefully received)

A Big Push

Let’s talk toilets… we haven’t gone round the U-bend or got flushed with success – but we do want to give a big push this weekend!

Sunday 19th Nov is World Toilet Day – time to be thankful for your own personal porcelain but also remember that one-in-three people in the world don’t have safe access to a toilet.  So we’re asking everyone in the Dock to be part of the Big Squat and join the race to twin 700 toilets by midnight on Sunday!

Twinning your toilet costs £60, which is enough to build a household latrine for an impoverished family, in a country of your choosing.   Your smallest room then becomes the proud owner of a certificate, complete with a photo and GPS coordinates so you can look up your twin on Google Maps.

The Dock loo is of course twinned – and it’s catching on – our amazing next door neighbours in the Spar have now twinned their new public toilets as well!

(PS on the subject – have you visited the new improved expanded Spar and Green Deli, now a few doors along from Dock Cafe? It’s amazing!)

In these big old scary times, it’s sometimes hard to know what to do to make a difference or help in a practical way to make the world a better place.  This is something so simple and so transformational.  Access to a clean loo brings dignity, hygiene, safety (especially for women), better health… what an incredible impact for one simple bit of household equipment that we so easily take for granted.

So – PUSH!

Stevo’s getting married! (sorry, all the single ladies)

Stephen, the Quiet Man at the centre of the madness in Dock Cafe, is taking a well-earned break to get married to the love of his life, Janet.  Before he departed we halted the world of Dock Cafe for a few moments one busy lunchtime so the volunteers could present him with a gift, the customers could embarrass him with a massive round of applause, and all of us could take a little moment to thank this amazing guy.

Describing what Stevo does is easy and it goes like this: what does he NOT do?!  If a volunteer needs to postpone a shift – if Doris the Dishwasher runs out of detergent – if we need extra scones to be ordered for a big group booking – if the coffee supplies are running low (EXTREME EMERGENCY!) – if someone needs to be shown the intricate workings of the coffee grinder – if we’re looking for hoover bags or sugar sachets or loo roll or bin bags – or if a weary traveller needs a welcome, an exhausted volunteer needs encouragement or a lonely soul needs a listening ear or… or… or…. that’s what Stevo does, every day, unfailingly, and always with a smile.  Oh, and about a gajillion other things that I’ve forgotten to mention as well.

So Stevo, from every single soul you’ve met, befriended, listened-to, encouraged, served and inspired over the last few years (and that count now runs to the thousands) – from the bottom of our hearts – thank you and congratulations!