Arts Editor, Ruth Waters, went to meet the man behind a new hybrid arts/cafe space, Ray Mahabir, for a nice cup of tea.
Situated just opposite Loughborough Junction Railway station at 209A Coldharbour Lane, C.A.F.E (Carnival Arts Food Empowerment) is tucked underneath one of the area’s many railway arches. Ray Mahabir originally began renting the space with the intention of it housing a gallery, but his plans have since changed dramatically.
Combining the cornerstones of his own personality, Ray has created a space which is part carnival workshop, part art and craft space, part cafe and part community space. Throughout the week, Ray combines his own talents as a trained caterer and his more creative skills as a versatile craftsman, to run a diverse range of workshops and meet ups, with equally diverse lunchtime menus.
The weekly rota of sessions includes everything from knitting, to card-making to sewing and alteration classes. Ray tells me that what he’s really interested in hosting in this space are workshops where people can learn really useful crafts from me, from other craftspeople and from each other – “this place is all about empowerment.”
I’ve worked with women in India, empowering them through craft to contribute to their own household incomes. Now I want to empower people here, enabling them to become independent sellers of their own crafts, putting people back on course socially and economically for employment.”
The space is very versatile, and Ray lists the various recent functions, aside from craft workshops, as seminars, rehearsals and children’s birthday parties. A carnival designer by trade, Ray is able to use one of the arches as his workshop space. He shows me this surreal space, straight out of an Angela Carter short story, his workshop is over-brimming with larger-than-life models, beginnings of constructions and fabulous fabrics.
When I ask Ray whether he intends to move away from carnival design he is keen to reassures me: “I still love carnival design, but there just isn’t the demand for it throughout the year. Hopefully running the C.A.F.E will allow me to use my other skills as a caterer, community worker and craftsman to earn a living and help the local community, empowering others through food and craft.”
“Maybe it springs from my work with and love for carnivals, but I’m interested in art work which is interactive and organic – where members of the community can get involved, watch the artist at work and learn new skills. I hope this space is accessible to everyone, it’s here for the community to use and be creative in.”
If you would like to set up an art or craft project, or would like to find out more about the workshops and catering on offer at C.A.F.E you can contact Ray on firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call him on 07881 571 743. You can also see updates and photographs from C.A.F.E on their Facebook page.
Ruth Waters can be found tweeting @MinimalismBlog