Hidden Gems – Pulse Cafe and the Eco Shed, Sittingbourne

Nestling amongst the terraced houses in Park Road, off Sittingbourne’s main thoroughfare, The Pulse Cafe is a thriving and welcoming space in which to relax, enjoy a coffee and browse.

It’s a beautifully green cafe – and I don’t mean in the colour-on-the-walls sense. Pulse operates a zero waste policy and aims to be a model of eco-friendliness. Already with photo-voltaic cells on the roof to generate green electricity, they’ll soon be adding rain-water harvesting tanks to flush the toilets.

Raising awareness and promoting excellent environmental practices by engaging and interacting with a wide variety of individuals and groups, the cafe is managed by the Skillnet Community Interest Company. It also houses an emerging social firm, the Eco –Shed, within its walls.

I spoke with Project Leader for the Eco-Shed, Richard Carrier, who’s been involved for five years. He says: “We support disadvantaged people to create stuff and currently employ four people with disabilities, working at their own pace and making the most of their strengths so that the Eco-Shed evolves. The products made are sold at craft fairs, local country parks and other centres as well as here. Both the cafe and the Eco-Shed give people the chance to practise the skills they’re developing, in real life settings.”

Richard Carrier and Sioux Peto

Jamie Flaherty works for Skillnet and he showed me some of the instruments and jewellery made from forest found and recycled pieces, telling me: “We go on wood walkabouts to find things; turning wooden crates into bird boxes, fallen elder wood into whistles and using shoelaces for instrument strings. And we’re making Olympic Torches out of found wood too!”

Jamie Flaherty

Pulse also welcomes the Ethical Artisans Market every month, featuring local artists and makers showcasing and selling their wares.

Sioux Peto, a member of the Swale Arts Forum, brings along her Polka Dot stall, full of nik-naks made from recycled items. Clearly passionate about her community she says: “Swale is full of hidden treasures; it’s special but not many people know about it. We need to get all the groups here working together, Skillnet and the Swale Arts Forum are doing it but there are more out there.

People in the community know about everything from arts to film, conservation etc but to be involved in them they need to be engaged in a language they understand and Pulse is making every effort to do that.”

Sioux Peto on the Polka Dot stall, with volunteer, Shazida Hussain

Louise Allen, Project Leader for Training and Sustainability at Skillnet and a manager at Pulse, said: “There are a lot of pubs and cafes in Sittingbourne but nowhere for parents with young children or people needing extra access to go for good quality drinks and healthy snacks at an affordable price.” Louise would love to hear from any local artists, craftspeople who’d like to be involved, either showcasing their work in the cafe, running workshops during the day, or volunteering to serve in the cafe.

Pulse managers Louise Allen (left), Michelle Huggins and volunteer Shazida.

They’re also looking for volunteers to get involved with their allotments in Milton. If you are interested in knowing more, please contact Louise on 01795 599899 or 07780 985245 or email pulse@skillnetgroup.co.uk Their website can be found here.

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