Social Enterprise ‘We Walk The Line’ launches new coffee bar this Thursday.

In collaboration with We Walk the Line, we are delighted to announce we will be opening a new coffee bar. Located in the foyer of the gallery, the new enterprise opens for business this Thursday February 9th 2017, with the Mayor of Colchester, Cllr Julie Young, serving the first shot of espresso, assisted by our director, Sally Shaw.

Mayor Julie Young, who was the inspiration behind bringing We Walk the Line to Colchester as a legacy for her Mayoral year, says: ‘

We look forward to We Walk the Line’s arrival in the Firstsite art gallery. Our town is known for bringing people and businesses together to share innovative ideas, and coffeehouses certainly play an important role in fostering collaboration, political debate and supporting civic engagement.’

Called We Walk the Line, the bar is the first outlet the enterprise has opened outside of London, and the first time a gallery has teamed up with a social enterprise project aimed at getting young, local people into work. In addition to offering a range of speciality coffees, using its own direct trade ‘Bob’s Blend’ medium roast beans, it will also sell a full range of cakes, bakes and lite bites supplied by Colchester-based Good Souls Bakery and Unique Bakes.

Alongside the coffee, it will offer a wide variety of fine, specialty and flavoured tea from social enterprise The Tea People, as well as hot chocolate made from real chocolate tablets. Called the Kokoa Collection, these are sourced from the best cocoa beans from around the world.

We Walk the Line, a registered social enterprise, is more than just another high-street chain coffee shop. Its ‘Wake Up and Smell the Coffee!’ project, with Colchester’s Kesed Church and Colchester Jobcentre Plus, trains local people marginalised in society to develop the skills they need to find employment and work in the growing artisanal coffee market – making it coffee that literally changes lives.

Founders Mat Corbett and Kieron Tilley began the venture in 2013 because they felt too little was being done to nurture young people’s entrepreneurial skills. Its mission is three-fold: to work with and employ people who need a chance, develop their business and barista skills, and empower them to one day become their own boss.

Says Mat Corbett:

‘The demand for We Walk the Line to head out of London has been tremendous since we started and I am excited to have the opportunity to return to the community which first inspired me to improve the life chances of those excluded in society.’

Says Firstsite director, Sally Shaw:

‘Firstsite is delighted to be the first gallery to work with We Walk the Line. In addition to providing delicious coffee and cake for our visitors, it is wonderful to think that the gallery is part of this brilliant social enterprise project, providing a vital stepping stone to help local, young people into work. This chimes perfectly with the gallery’s values, creating a place that can not just illuminate the world, but change people’s lives.’

About Mat Corbett:
Mat Corbett, FRSA, has over 20 years experience in the fields of training, social exclusion, enterprise and employment with a focus of supporting those most disadvantaged in society. He has worked in senior positions at an international Human Rights charity, London’s largest Housing Association in community regeneration and established a market leading enterprise division at a London college. He has considerable experience in the leadership, design & development of regeneration, employment and skills programmes supporting disadvantaged groups including young people not in education, employment and training (NEETs), ex- offenders and the disabled into sustainable work.

About Kieron Tilley:
Kieron Tilley, FRSA Chartered MCIPD, has also worked with hard to reach groups for 20 years across the commercial, public and third sectors. Most recently he has been a key member of the team which founded and developed a multi-award winning and groundbreaking education charity working in the criminal justice, education and broadcast sectors. Prior to this he worked for the BBC for several years, firstly for BBC People where he piloted award winning staff development programmes and latterly at BBC Network Radio where he was responsible for strategic learning content and outreach activity.

Image: L-R- Sam Green, Hetal Amin and Matt Beale. Photo Frazer Merrick