The Empire Cafe

Collective Architecture, Glasgow, 2014

 

Subscribe now to instantly view this image

Subscribe to the Architects’ Journal (AJ) for instant access to the AJ Buildings Library, an online database of nearly 2,000 exemplar buildings in photographs, plans, elevations and details.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

 

Chris Leslie Photography (website)     Download Original

  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     
  •     

A cafe, exhibits and events as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games Cultural Programme

The Empire Café was an exploration of Scotland’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade through coffee, sugar, tea, cotton, music, visual art, academic lectures, poetry, debate, workshops, historical walks, film and literature.

The project, co-created by Collective Architecture and author Louise Welsh, was a temporary work forming part of the 2014 Cultural Programme funded by Creative Scotland.

The event, and associated working café, was based in the main hall and formerly redundant shop unit at the Briggait (home of the Merchant’s Steeple) in Glasgow’s Merchant City from 24 July - 1 August 2014.

The Empire Café served dishes developed through a series of outreach sessions delving into the history of trade between Scotland and the Empire. The changing daily menu prepared by community cooks from across Glasgow (with 25 people becoming fully trained in Food Hygiene), featured organic Scottish produce and fairly traded ingredients from other parts of the World.

The event attracted 4000 visitors over the course of the week and hosted a series of eight events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. A new poetry anthology commissioned 18 new works by Scottish and Caribbean poets with poets. Poets from Jamaica and Ghana presented their work at The Empire Cafe (funded by The British Council). Extracts from each poet's work featured on bespoke bone china tea-sets (sourced as ‘seconds’ from Wedgewood) and laser cut tables (fabricated by MAKlab). A new laser cut plywood ceiling in the café space was derived from abstracted images of sugar cane.

During the event Glasgow City Council formally committed to mounting a permanent exhibit/memorial of some kind to Scotland's involvement in the Slave Trade. This also raised challenging political discussions regarding reparations and land ownership in Scotland involving Andy Wightman of 'Who owns Scotland' and ‘The Poor had No Lawyers’.

In addition to the programme of events the visual artist Graham Fagen (representing Scotland in Venice during 2015) produced a new film piece mixing a Burns poem with a Bob Marley song called 'War c/w I Murder Hate', Stanley Odd the Hip Hop Band wrote and performed a new song called 'Princes on the Pavement'. The event hosted a new 3-D film in a bespoke pavilion called Sightlines for RCHAMS and a new letter writing 'pod' for Letter to an Unknown Soldier for 14-18NOW - both designed by Collective Architecture.

The café shop unit – which had lain empty for many years - is now fully equipped with water and power and has opened as a training space for Dear Green Coffee.

Data

  • Begun: Aug 2014
  • Completed: Aug 2014
  • Floor area: 917m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £120,000
  • Tender date: Jul 2014
  • Address: The Briggait, 141 Bridgegate, Glasgow, G1 5HZ, United Kingdom

Professional Team

Suppliers