“The Commons” is an uncommonly welcoming city space, open to musicians and writers, craftspeople and families − in fact, everyone!
“The Commons” is a library, Fair Trade Café, community hub and arts space on the top floor of Fellowship House, alongside the Wesley Uniting Church in Beaumont Street, Hamilton.
It has been established to connect communities of love and justice, empowering people to live lives of hope, joy and meaning.
After much planning and negotiation by the founders – Caitlin O’Reilly, Tim Evans, Andy Goodwin and Miriam Williams − it opened in November 2012 as a faith community of the Uniting Church with the mandate of “Community Development”.
This community space maintains the founders’ emphasis on justice, with the management committee and volunteers all aligned to a common statement of values: Ethical; Sustainable; Creative; Inclusiveness - including in matters of Faith, Gender, Sexuality and Ethnicity. Small acts matter!
Miriam said, “We reused an empty space for a different purpose and so, as hunters and gatherers, we recycled and upcycled, using assets already in the community, to fit out the space with a second-hand coffee machine and lounges, tables and chairs, bookshelves, books and board games, a record player and records and so on.”
Caitlin and Tim were already involved in the local music scene so were well equipped, with the skills and talents of others, to establish a Fair Trade Café and to offer hospitality and music in a safe place.
The Commons provides a venue for groups − yoga, film, “Just Dance”, craft – whose members’ philosophies are aligned and meeting venues for organisations such as Clean As and Amnesty International.
The Commons doesn’t provide seed funds but does provide in kind support − a free or low cost venue and connection to a large network of supporters on social media.
In 2014 an Ethical Bulk Dry Goods self-service grocery shop, known as “Common Goods”, was established. This was upgraded in 2016 with a grant from the Uniting Church to buy fridges, bulk bins and gravity dispensers.
It stocks reasonably priced food and other items − flours, nuts, grains, legumes, dried fruits, coconut products, chocolate, olive oil, soaps and local honey.
The committee has established contact and alignment with local growers, mostly organic, and some local suppliers, and becoming a supplier to the nearby Apothecary Kitchen means turnover has increased, assisting in maintaining freshness and boosting income.
The Commons is a not-for-profit organisation, and any surplus is reinvested to pay the wages of a part-time worker.
Why not pop in to The Commons sometime?
Please visit The Commons and www.facebook.com/thecommonscafe or just call in; you will be assured of a warm welcome. Open Tuesday 12-6pm, Friday 9-2pm, Saturday 10-2pm.
John Hayes is a member of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Social Justice Council and takes a keen interest in the environment, climate change and global warming. He recently presented on Transitioning to Renewable Energy and Sustainability at a Uniting Church event called “Inspiracy” held in churches at Merewether and Adamstown and in The Commons.