Something has been bothering me:
To what extent is this idea of a trendy cafe in Harehills, complete with beautiful latte art and freshly baked croissants, an airlift of my middle class British aspirations into a community that really doesn’t need it, want it, and prefers their own coffee culture? My vision is of a place that is safe, welcoming, inclusive and accessible to all, but by it’s very nature, can it possibly hope to be so?
There’s a new place that’s popped up on Chapeltown Road: Artisan bakery, patisserie, freshly baked pizzas, Farrow and Ball paintwork…. I was having a little nosey online and came across a fascinating conversation thread about it (here). The original reviewer was raving about it and then someone suggested that the owner had ‘been smart enough to cash in on the crowd of uneasy middle class professionals’ who work nearby and wouldn’t go anywhere else in the neighbourhood. He asks; ‘would it be overly harsh to call it a tourist attraction?’
This question is pertinent: when I studied my MA in Modern Jewish Studies, I was interested in the discussion around ‘The Holocaust Industry’ and certainly when I visited Auschwitz, I was struck by the health and safety signs, especially those directing me to the emergency exits…. I explored the experience of visiting Jewish museum after Jewish museum in Poland, housing Jewish objects behind glass cabinets with little index cards explaining their function, rather than the candlesticks and ritual wine cup being used weekly in family homes as their counterparts in my own home do. So here I am again, referencing to my not so latent post-Holocaust Jewish identity and motivations for this project. Could it turn out to be the complete antithesis of my vision; where the communities in Harehills become a curiosity to observe while drinking a flat white in a small safe pocket of the neighbourhood?
The answer is of course a resounding NOOOOOOOO! Therefore, this project must be embedded in the local community as well as be a place for the uneasy middle class professionals to choose and feel comfortable in. It has to be something that communities in Harehills want as much as me and my cafe going buddies do. They have to feel part of this project too and only then will the space we create together be truly unique and wonderful.