Nicola Blackburn checks out Husk Coffee & Creative Space
As you emerge from Limehouse DLR station on to congested, chaotic Commercial Road, Husk Coffee & Creative Space is difficult to overlook. It is a calming façade amidst the chaos.
Stepping inside, you’ll admire the natural light flooding the café’s atrium and the homely second-hand armchairs and vintage coffee tables sprawled around the open-plan space. You’ll settle down to some affordable, homemade grub and artisan coffee – and experience the novel sensation in London of not feeling like an imposition the moment your plate is cleared.
The café doesn’t attract many one-time visitors. Opening at nine every morning (which the café’s Team Leader Matt jokes is ‘midday in the coffee world’) Husk completely misses the sea of customers looking for a quick takeaway coffee on their early morning commute to work. Those who do stop by Husk tend to do so at the same time every day or every week, and they’re easy to spot – Matt greets many customers by name, as we search out a free table for our interview.
As any of those regulars would know, there’s a lot more to Husk than its coffee. A project of London City Mission, Husk facilitates an impressive range of regular events, held in the café space and run entirely by volunteers. Many of these events celebrate the arts: think ‘Open Mic’ nights; gigs, and ‘The Paint Space’, an event where anybody is welcome to come and test their artistic skill with paints and easels provided. Husk also runs a ‘Continuum’ artists’ residency programme. The chosen artists – always local – are granted free access to Husk’s downstairs studio rooms for a six-month period, during which time they produce an exhibition to be held in Husk’s gallery space. Other Husk initiatives cater to specific groups from the community; these include a weekly mother and children’s group, affectionately named ‘singing huskies’, and free ESOL classes.
Although many of Husk’s initiatives are faith-based and faith-driven, Matt is clear that ‘we really want Husk and the brand to be associated with openness, to people from all kinds of religious backgrounds: Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims…’ The staff at Husk hope to foster an interest in Christianity that comes about organically, through creating a sense of community, which all starts at the café. Regular customers will often be the ones to reach out, Matt explains, because they ‘contemplate whether they’re sure if they’ve really worked out their stuff…(these) people are hungry for spiritual awareness and content.’
Whether faith is a concern or not, the value of community is omnipresent in Husk’s many projects. The story behind Husk’s delectable £3.80 Dahl, to my mind, perfectly captures the community spirit. The dish is created on-site, five days a week, by a local Muslim lady who, Matt informs me, ‘has been coming since way before (the space) was Husk.’
Take it from this lady: if you’ve experienced the welcoming atmosphere of the space, it’s very difficult not to be lured back.
649-651 Commercial Rd
Limehouse, E14 7LW
Nicola is a freelance journalist and English Literature student, dividing her time between East London and South-East Scotland. Her journalism spotlights ‘game-changing’ members of her community and places to visit for good grub!
Follow Nicola on Twitter: @NicolaBlackbu17
Images: Nicola Blackburn