THE BLOG

#SavetheBlueChair: Glasgow's Community Cafe

08/10/2015 09:57 | Updated 05 October 2016

On a busy street in the middle of Glasgow, an often overlooked cafe awaits your company. The Blue Chair community cafe encompasses everything that is great about Glasgow: a warm environment, a super friendly clientele and bursting to the seams with creative endeavour.

But it's facing the threat of closure.

Two years after it opened, the powers that be are threatening to evict the Blue Chair and its owner, Lorelle McGurran. The business, like many other small enterprises, made a loss in its first year. Since then, City Property say that it hasn't grown fast enough and have told Lorelle to move out this month. A group of campaigners, including myself, are set on not allowing this to happen.

I attend the Blue Chair open mic night once a week (Wednesday's at 18:30 if interested - we'll be carrying on until we absolutely have to stop). But this is more than just the usual open mic, showcasing not only Glasgow's stellar acoustic scene but a range of other talent too. Prefer spoken word and performance poetry? Want some stand-up or improv comedy? Perhaps someone whaling on a bass is more your thing? The Blue Chair has it covered. For me, this wee community helped me to realise that I enjoy writing and performing poetry. I've never looked back.

I am not the only one who has a close attachment to the Blue Chair. Aileen Mackay, one of the leaders of #savethebluechair campaign, said: "We want the Blue Chair to stay because it's a brilliant community hub in Glasgow city centre where everyone is catered for. The warm atmosphere is second to none, and independent businesses like this one are to be cherished, not shut down."

This is why Aileen and other have banded together to do the best they can to save the space. But they need your help. City Property are demanding the immediate payment of over £13,500 or else be shut down. An Indiegogo page has been set up to help the cause, and has already raised over £600 in just a few days. Whilst this is impressive, much more is needed - and fast.

The Blue Chair is worth so much more than its economic contribution (which is increasing). This is why the campaign group has been established - it is not the brainchild of owner Lorelle, who admitted to almost giving up on her dream of running a cafe until her customers offered their support.

The threat over the Blue Chair is one of a long line hanging over creative spaces in Glasgow. Earlier this year the Arches was closed despite a great deal of criticism - one of the last independent clubs in the city. And whilst this community cafe is not the only incredible space available to creative types in Glasgow, we don't want its closure to become a catalyst for more.

Anna Crow, Green party list candidate for next year's Holyrood elections, said: "Spaces like this should be welcomed and supported by any that have a greater position of authority in their management. In the terms of any businesses such as this their inherent sense of value goes far beyond any profit-generating ability. It saddens me that bodies such as City Property only appear to regard profit as a measure of success.

"For me personally, the Blue Chair has been a safe and inclusive space where I could express myself creatively at the open mic, it has been where casual acquaintances have become firm friends, it has been where a network has formed which feels more like family than mere friendship."

I couldn't agree more. After I left university, I stayed in Glasgow because it had become my home, but many of my friends left for jobs elsewhere. With little else to do, I dipped my toes into a variety of hobbies in an attempt to meet new people. It wasn't until I found the Blue Chair that I was successful - and now I'm proud to call myself part of their community. Whether you are a regular or not, you will always be welcomed at this community cafe.

Elaine Gallagher, a Blue Chair regular, said: "The welcome and care in the Blue Chair is far warmer than any franchised place could possibly have and the variety of activities that can go on there contribute to the area far beyond the profit it can generate."

The cafe has meant far more to others. More than just a friendly space, the Blue Chair has become a refuge for those dealing with dependency issues and struggling with depression. Dedicated evenings have been arranged to ensure support is there.

Elaine adds: "The Blue Chair, like other small independent spaces, is necessary to support the growth of society and arts and public participation in their local areas. Where more and more places are franchised and gated and operated to make the most profit from footfall, places like the Blue Chair and Tchai Ovna and other venues, which have sadly gone under to developers and unfair tax systems, provide a safe place to incubate communities; of artists, of performers, of people in recovery, of students, of political groups."

It would be a real shame to let this space go to waste. Glasgow can be big and scary, but it isn't without its charm. But if we continue to let developers and big wigs win, it might just lose this. Help the Blue Chair gets back on its feet. Donate via Indiegogo, attend one its many events, enjoy a delicious meal and help #savethebluechair.