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NANA Cafe - The Kickstarter-Funded Cafe Run By Army Of Apron-Clad Older Ladies

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Food trends may come and go, but there is one newly-opened London cafe that we hope is here to stay.

Hackney-based NANA cafe is a project with a big heart and its finger firmly of the pulse of the community's needs.

Simultaneously employing older ladies with time on their hands who are stuck in doors, and feeding a community hungry for tasty-but-affordable food, the whole set-up is simply oozing with goodness.

The nanas can take on a number of tasks during a shift - pouring tea, serving cake, clearing tables or simply having a natter with customers - roles are voluntary, but after three months of service they start to take a share of the cafe's profits.

Once a pop-up in a local pub, NANA Cafe has grown up, moved out and got its own place. But, of course, just any old place would never do for a start-up with such a philanthropic agenda.

nana cafe

The setting that the team (founder Katie Harris, 'NANAger' Yasmin Harrison, resident chef and around 14 older ladies) call home is a renovated public toilet that hadn't been used for at least 20 years.

Working with the Clapton Improvement Society for more than a year, this disused public space is now complete with roof terrace, bar (set atop newly scrubbed and bleached urinals) and a delicate new china set. And the public toilets have been reopened - the compromise for leasing the space, Katie tells us, is that NANA also runs the loos.

The move was funded on crowd-funding website Kickstarter, where it smashed its £15,000 target. And after receiving a grant from Nesta, NANA has its sights on expansion - a positive attitude to ageing, team NANA believe, should stretch beyond Hackney.

Florence, who has been working with NANA cafe since it first opened, believes that the project has given the community hope in what she feels is a rather bleak social situation.

“Lots of older women in the community were lonely and feeling isolated. But then NANA cafe opened and for many it acts like a second home,” she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. “People are scared of ageing. But retirement doesn’t have to be the end of life.”

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“This place opened a gateway - allowing Hackney residents to socialise with friends and enjoy themselves,” Florence added. “It’s always busy - and great to see different people interacting. Whether young or old, male or female, no matter what race, the door is always open.”

Nanas can be recruited from all over the community ("I often find myself sitting next to an older lady on the 242 bus and spreading the word about NANA cafe," says Katie.)

Evelyn, who turns 70 in January, first heard about the project when Katie visited her weekly pensioner's club.

“I work on Monday mornings, starting at 10am and I usually finish at 1pm - although the deal is we can go whenever we feel tired,” she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

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Katie was inspired to set up the project by her own grandmother, Eileen.

“When my mum and dad went to work, it was my nana who raised my me and my sister,” she tells HuffPost UK Lifestyle. “We’re all really close - my nana taught us to knit, sew and cook.”

When moving back to busy London from university in Glasgow, Katie realised how lucky she was to have her reliable and loving nana just around the corner. It's hard, she says, in a city with more than 8 million inhabitants, not to feel like a tiny little fish in one very big pond. So she's glad to be able to recreate that feeling of warmth and security for others.

"Everyone needs some nana love," she says. "Someone patient, kind and loving, who gives you a dippy egg and a back rub just when you need it."

She's right, sometimes there's nothing quite as reassuring, no matter what your age, as a nana in an Gingham apron giving you a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

NANA cafe is open from 9am-5:30pm, The Convenience, Brooksby's Walk, Hackney, E9 6DA.

 
Presented by Havana Club