Repair Café helps to build connections at Norfolk pub

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The strapline of The Blue Bell Pub & Café in Stoke Ferry, Norfolk is ‘More than a pub – a community hub’ and with its ever-growing range of exciting activities it has become a social and creative hub for local people.

Among the successful activities that the Blue Bell hosts is a Saturday morning ‘Repair Café’, which is held twice yearly in the pub’s garden and annexe room. with around 16 repairers attending the vibrant event.

Typically attracting around 50 people, the repair cafe, which runs from 10am to 2pm, helps to bring new faces to the pub and drive its food and drink sales, with attendees enjoying coffees, snacks and lunch.

The pub’s team provide the repairers with tables, chairs and gazebos for them to set up areas for people to bring their items in need of repair along to. A wide range of services is on offer from the repairers, including electrical repairs, knife sharpening and sewing repairs. Plants and foraged herbs are also on sale.

Attracting new people in

Jim McNeill, an original founder member of Stoke Ferry Community Enterprise Limited, the Community Benefit Society that owns and runs the pub-cafe, says: “The Repair Cafés have attracted new people to The Blue Bell who have a look around, find out more about what we offer, and come back another time, which is great. They have a strong following too from our regular customers.”

He adds: “The Repair Café is also a great way of supporting the local economy. The repairers pick up extra odd jobs from attendees and the pub has also used some of their services, including woodwork and gardening. Lots of people are aware of repair cafes and love the concept, so I would encourage other pubs to embrace the idea. The events create a real buzz and people love having new life given to their items.”

Support for home workers

The Blue Bell also hosts a weekly Friday meet-up at its café for home workers. Hosted between 12 and 2pm the aim is to provide an opportunity for those working on their own to connect and network with other home workers.

Jim says: “Some people come in and work from the pub which is where the idea came from. This gives them the opportunity to get out of the house and have a chat with other home workers.”

The pub also hosts a monthly book club and a weekly ‘Over 60s Lunch Club’. It is also introducing a laptop station to help provide digital services to support elderly locals and those who aren’t online at home.

Art group creating friendships

A weekly ‘Arts Friends’ group is also hosted in the pub’s dining room, which has a strong following. This builds on the success of its weekly craft group and monthly craft workshops which are hosted in the pub’s community café, which was established with the support of Pub is The Hub. Find out more here: Crafty idea at pub’s community café benefiting both locals and pub (

The pub also provides a regular meeting place where locals can meet members of the Stoke Ferry & District History Group and bring along artefacts, photos and their living memories of the area to incorporate into the group’s Community History Archive which is stored in the village primary school.

Jim McNeill adds: “The groups are organised by others. They are very easy to host. The pub just provides the space and helps to promote them.”