The Creative Cafe

A pop-up intervention on the Marks Gate estate that lasted 3 years from 2015-18.

The Creative Café (CC) is a pop-up café, gallery and creative workspace on the Marks Gate estate in Dagenham that ran on and off from 2015-18. I established the project in 2015, the CC utilised a space within the Community Centre on the estate transformed into a pop-up café, gallery and creative workspace with a team of local residents from the estate who volunteered their time painting, decorating, upcycling furniture, creating displays and more. The CC was launched in April and was open for 5 months offering a new creative activity on each day of opening. The project in 2015 engaged 959 local residents.

In 2016 we were able to relaunch the Creative Café for nine months from May to January 2017. We engaged a total of 2000 people during the 9 months, becoming a vital resource and arts hub to the Chadwell Heath community.

In the summer of 2018 we delivered a series of pop-up family events during the summer holidays to re-engage with families who had previously attended the Creative Café during 2015-17 and also build relationships with new families and residents.


The Creative Café became a haven for Marks Gate residents, both young and old, providing a hub for creativity, a space where local people could meet, share, learn and gain new skills and get involved over a cuppa. It became a social space for residents from all walks of life to discuss and exchange ideas whilst having the opportunity to get creative.

The project provided local residents with a platform to celebrate their creativity, develop confidence and feel a real sense of pride and achievement. A unique aspect of the project is that it was intergenerational, engaging local residents from a variety of backgrounds and age groups to participate; to date we have had residents as young as 2 and as old as 93 access our activities.

Residents referred to it as their haven; ‘an oasis away from the chaos that is normally Marks Gate’, providing some much needed respite away from their day to day lives. For parents who cannot afford after school activities for their children and/or have limited transport the café provides a stimulating environment where they can engage with their children and other parents, creating friendships and a local support structure.

The project fostered community links and cohesion by providing a space on the housing estate for different communities to meet and mix. Participants developed friendships and relationships that continued outside and beyond the project thus breaking down barriers, developing positive relationships and facilitated integration.

‘There are people here who speak very good English and some who don’t speak any, but we find ways to communicate and we’re all at the same stage learning something new. I’ve made so many friends, life is all about variety and I have that now.’

Jeanette Scipio, local resident

‘The Creative Cafe brings the Marks Gate community together; it’s proven, I see it every time I come here. It’s changed people’s lives, it connects them and it gets them out of their homes.’

Coby Stewart, local resident

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