Grans Doing Grand: Clapton’s New Community Cafe

We did mention the tea, didn't we?
Calm before the Clapton (tea) storm.

Hackney Tours is excited to announce the first Clapton history walk (10.30am Fri 15th Feb) leaving/returning from/to We Are Nana. See below for details of  this great new intergenerational initiative here:

“I met these people who were 80 or older and still smashing it every day!” says Katie Harris, founder of a new Clapton community cafe that aims to bring together the generations over simple, good value food. And tea. Lots of tea.We Are Nana is a part-time ‘comfort food’ cafe fronted by older women – aka ‘Nanas’ – that makes use the Elderfield pub’s 4pm weekday opening to offer boiled egg and soldiers and other simple dishes 10-3 Mon-Fri.

It’s the brainchild of Katie who  co-founded another project which made use of the skills of the over 50s, the Amazings: “passing on knowledge and skills, to help you (and the world) be a little bit wiser”.

There’s an irony that when we’ve accrued a huge amount of experience and knowledge in life, society suddenly tells us we’re surplus to requirements. “Retirement is a pivotal moment,” says Katie, “One of our Nanas is a former nurse who spent all her life looking after people then all of sudden she’s got no outlet for all this care she’s still got to give.”

Some retirees will throw themselves into hobbies or voluntary work at this point – “They tell me I’ve got to keep going otherwise I’ll just stop”-  while others will enter a self-perpetuating cycle of depression and isolation.

Katie wants to take the wisdom these people have acquired and use it. “It’s certainly not charity; these skills and abilities are concrete qualities that can be used and shared with the community.” But, she points out, not everybody is a boffin; the Amazings featured experiences like foraging walks with a nature specialist, but not everyone is comfortable leading a class or standing before a crowd.

“Some of the skills can be neatly labelled, and men are often comfortable in the ‘expert’ role. But some women say ‘I don’t have any skills’ then after five minutes talking to them you find out they’ve raised children, run homes, kept large families fed and much more. They don’t realise how much they’ve achieved.”

You wouldn’t expect to see an evening class offering Grandmothering skills, but those of us who’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a close relationship with a loving and supportive Nana/Nanna will know just how valuable those emotionally-intelligent ‘soft skills’ are to children’s development. And if you’re not from London, you can easily spend your time only mixing with your own peer group here.

An inter-generational environment is key; the kitchen itself will be run by a younger person, freeing the Nanas to do what they do best: provide a warm welcome and informal friendly environment for locals of all ages to relax. It’s no surprise to learn that Katie’s partner is involved with another inter-generational initiative in East London, the groundbreaking Good Gym. The Good Gym pairs young runners with an elderly or isolated ‘coach’ that they run to once a week to check on and chat with.

Katie is also passionate about community and wants We Are Nana to grow into a local hub. The idea of ‘unlimited tea for £1’ is to specifically encourage the elderly to come and spend time here. Katie recalls taking her parents to a very ‘cool’ cafe and feeling like their faces weren’t as welcome as they could be in the ‘new’ Clapton.

The first wave of Nanas are all local and have seen everything from rationing to recycling in and around Chatsworth Road. As the area becomes increasingly fashionable, Katie wants long-time older residents like the Nanas to mix with Clapton’s trendier and younger arrivals to provide an element of continuity in a changing borough.

Katie started We Are Nana in a month, using £500 of her own money and is now looking for funding and support to grow the concept and expand. “I got sick of coming up with ideas for other people and them just sitting on it, so I thought I’d just do it myself.”

Katie certainly has the drive and the know-how; now she just needs the customers. Go support your local Nanas at the Elderfield on Elderfield/Rushmore Road E5, Mon-Fri 10-3. Chat, charm and – if you’re lucky – a little local history. And, of course, unlimited tea for £1.

If you would like to offer your services to We Are Nana, check them out on the website or Facebook. (We’re on Facebook too, btw). They’ve a piano, a display screen and a great space. Or just pop in and drink some tea and eat some toast without breaking the bank.

Hackney Tours first walk departs at 10.30am on Friday 15th, lasts 1.5 hours and is pay-what-you-like to keep it open to all. Contact We Are Nana for tickets or email us here at 

You won’t believe how much history there is in Clapton!

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