KuKooLaLa community café is in the heart of Jubilee Park in Leyton, Waltham Forest. It is also at the heart of the local community, and acts as a lifeline to all those in need; lonely people, disadvantaged families, elderly people and parents who want a welcoming space for them and their kids. KuKooLaLa café doesn’t just serve delicious food (though the apple crumble cake is salivatingly good!). The food is affordably priced to be inclusive; a cup of tea for about £1 and a child’s portion of beans on toast for £1.25. The café is rarely able to make a profit.
So much more than a café...
But KuKooLaLa doesn't just serve delicious food, and is so much more than just a place to grab lunch. Before lockdown in March, the café had:
- Provided free meals and showers for homeless people two days a week in conjunction with Tommy's Kitchen
- Hosted social gatherings for the homeless, which also included access to advice organisations and health services
- Offered free children’s storytime and singing every weekday including school holidays
- Supported and promoted environmental activities around Jubilee Park like litter picking and river clean-ups
- Provided free use of the café’s facilities for a breastfeeding clinic
- Offered free use of meeting spaces for charity groups and subsidised rates for other community groups e.g pilates, yoga classes, language courses, baby groups
- Held free community parties during holidays, including Easter, Halloween, Christmas and New Year
- Provided free daily children’s crafting sessions during every school holiday
- Hosted the Leyton Baby and Children’s Clothes Swap to help disadvantaged families and raise money for Haven House Children's Hospice
- Offered free or subsidised stall fees for a weekend Market and promoted local makers and traders, and also provided free music and free kids’ activities
- Provided free room hire and party space for Eton Manor Athletics Club and discounts on members' food and refreshments
- Gave free food and drink to Park Run volunteers, and provided free pancakes to children meeting their running targets
- Held free community movie nights
- Started work on a community garden, including raised beds for planting
- Hosted local Sling Library and Cloth Nappy events, for parents-to-be and parents
Why we need your help
When the Government forced closure in March due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the massive majority of the income from the café stopped.
This included the daily food and drink takings of course. But it also meant that all the very popular children’s birthday parties had to be cancelled. Special events which usually bring in extra income have had to be scrapped including Easter tea parties and an Alice in Wonderland interactive event, while funds we normally receive for room hire have disappeared as all classes have had to be cancelled. All of these activities normally bring in vital extra money, which enables the free and subsidised events to be possible.
Unfortunately, KuKooLaLa café is not eligible for any of the business interruption Covid-19 grants associated with business rates, because businesses based in parks are not included. That would have been worth £10,000. The café also cannot access discretionary funds, and is unable to claim anything on insurance. All of the staff have been furloughed, and this staff scheme is now winding down bringing fears of unemployment for the workers, and leaving us no idea how to go about rebuilding the business without staff.
KuKooLaLa is in real danger of closing down. For good.
We’re still standing
Despite all this, we will keep going for as long as we can. The café is open for takeaway; Wednesday to Friday from 12:00 until 17:00 and Saturday & Sunday 09:00 until 17:00
We are also continuing to do as much as we can for the local community right now:
- Cooking free hot meals for local vulnerable people and those in local hostels with Leyton/Lea Bridge Hot Meals
- Helping to produce PPE Visors with the Visor Army and local volunteers
- Making & distributing face masks to Waltham Forest residents
- Acting as a collection point for two local women’s domestic violence refuges
- Providing free live online children’s storytime and singing every weekday since March
- Acting as a drop-off point and promoting local food bank
- Providing admin support for the local Covid-19 Mutual Aid Group
- Offering a free community library with books for adults, and books and toys for children
- Organising free children’s packs delivered to PL84U AL-SUFFA food bank for families in need
- Creating and distributing free crafting kits for children available to all families
KuKooLaLa café means so much to so many people. It would be a tragic loss to the local community if we were unable to survive this crisis. We are hoping to raise £10,000, which is just what other business have been able to claim from the Government for interruption of business, but KuKooLaLa is not eligible because it is situated within a park. We have been told if our business was just situated 100 metres away on the street, then we would have received the money.
The money would be used to bring staff back and pay their wages so we can try and return to being the heart of the community again, and help those who need our services. Funds are also urgently required to repair vital appliances and restore our event space which was damaged by high winds.
Thank you so much for reading about our much-loved café, and thank you for any donation you feel able to give.
"Lovely local café and a great hub for the local community" Phillip
"KuKooLaLa is my favourite local café and on many occasions it is the only thing to get me out of the house when I've been feeling down or suffering poor health. It is a real treasure, with loads of family-friendly and community events." Ally
"Best story time for kids I've came across. Amazing and supportive community." Bogusia
"Fabulous community hub. Just want to give a shout out to the staff, who make KuKooLaLa so welcoming. Joy and her wonderful team make it such a friendly place to go." Rose
"Best community café, space, everything in Leyton. Joy the operator is a delight, and brings an infectious energy to all the events they host." Tomas
"KuKooLaLa is just the best. Amazing inexpensive cake and coffee, great atmosphere especially if you have kids, and a fab range of exciting and imaginative events." Emma
"KuKooLaLa has become our home from home. It is a warm and vibrant place where everyone is made to feel welcome. Our little one loves the Silly Storytime with Joy (who really lives up to her name!) and raiding the large range of toys available." Rosie
"So proud of our Jubilee Park and absolutely love this wonderful cafe run by Joy....a friendly , warm, inviting place for all." Jill
“Have been coming here since my daughter was a tiny baby and it’s a haven for new parents to fend off isolation - we have made many friends through the cafe. Joy is the beating heart of Kukoolala and her efforts for the wider community are inspirational & appreciated by all” Nina
There has recently been an update to the local council’s Discretionary Grant funding criteria to include cafes in the borough's parks. It's on a first come first served basis until the pot of money runs out so it's not a guarantee but this is great news and we're compiling our application as we speak!
(Photo credit for main image - Jonathan Ashworth)