Care Cafe is a public or domestic place for people to gather - their wits, thoughts and comrades in action. It is a temporary venue for communitas, conversation and activity within a spoken and visible frame of ‘care’.
A lot of us are trying to figure out how to breathe through this present moment and look for ways to keep connected to each other while we figure out what to do about our future. It is a space which allows us to acknowledge social anxiety, our own vulnerabilities and our desire to enact and feel care.
It re-appropriates some of the aesthetic of café culture, with the arrangement of small tables, quiet conversation and provision of shared food and drink. However, the space also acknowledges and dismantles the common social anxieties associated with these spaces: closed conversations between strangers, a school-canteen-esque difficulty in knowing where to sit and with whom. Just by entering the Care Café, participants acknowledged something of their own vulnerability, their needs in the present moment, and their desire to give and receive care.
The Care Café is an open-source and unfixed protocol; it is still developing and evolving as it encounters new questions, contexts and communities. Anyone can stage their own iteration in their local arts centre, church hall, shop front or front room. The life of the project is in the repetition, the reciprocity and the interconnection of disparate peoples and places through the principle of care and gathering. The radical power and personal comfort in acts of gathering can grow exponentially with the knowledge that the experience is being replicated in different locales worldwide—a truth perceived on a massive scale in the case of the 2017 Women's March.
How to Have a Care Cafe...
Choose a place. (It can be a hall, a hallway, a meeting room or someone’s living room - even the corner of a real café.)
Wrangle up some chairs and ideally a table or two. (If possible, room for people to move and mingle as well as sit and talk.)
Leave the space mostly open for small group or one-to-one conversations. (There is no specific agenda or discussion topic.)
Provide for food and drink. (This can be an informal, potluck table that is free and open to all. It’s fun to see what arrives and we can all serve and clean up after ourselves.)
Music is optional. Remember that conversation is optimal.
Make available one small and somewhat mindless task of care – something that needs to be done for someone or some group. (folding laundry, texting appeals, stamping mailings, cutting out cookies/art projects for kids, anything! There is something about doing something simple and mindless with your hands that keeps the conversation gentle, slow and flowing. Having everyone engaged independently but in the same or similar activity creates both autonomy and community.)
Provide a way to share resources for action, activism and care. (Post-its, sign-up sheets, a wall poster, bulletin board or blackboard, video diary corner.)
Document and log your activity on the Care Café Facebook community page. (that way we can stay connected and share care strategies.)
And remember that this is primarily a state of mind that we can carry with us, asking ourselves and others daily:
How can we maintain an attitude of care in such an uncaring world?
Read Care Café: A Chronology and Protocol, published in The Scottish Journal of Performance, April 6, 2018.
In the wake of the 2016 U.S. election and Brexit, the Care Cafe was conceived by Lois Weaver as a place – a real or virtual, public or domestic place for people to gather- their wits, thoughts and comrades in action. In response to this painful moment, she is proposing the Care Cafe as new call to conversation. Since this time Care Cafes have proved a fruitful space for gathering and joining together in community for conversation and completing mindless tasks of care. These tasks have included political activism, like writing letters to voters during the 2018 Midterm Elections in the U.S.