Back in 1997 after a number of meetings with Ilfracombe young people about what was available for them in the town, “not a lot” was the reply. It was evident from their conversations that what they wanted was a safe environment in which to meet on Ilfracombe seafront. This was the start of a process involving the young people, youth workers, the police, Ilfracombe College staff, and local councillors, Regular meetings were held with all those involved, and the idea of a drop-in cafe was conceived.
The hard work then started, after hours of phone calls and form filling we secured funding from the single regeneration budget, the funding was for three years, this enabled us to look at suitable premises. The old Chimps cafe was on the rental market, after negotiations with the estate agents we secured a three year lease.
The cafe opened on 11th November 1997. This was the start of a new type of provision for Ilfracombe Young People. Over the years the cafe has proven to be a focal point for Ilfracombe and our catchment area. In 1998 Devon & Cornwall Police nominated us for the Phillip Lawrence Award. Two oyung people, two youth workers, and a police officer went to London to receive the award from Mrs Lawrence and the Home Secretary.
At the end of the three years lease the owners of the property informed us it was up for sale, what next, we couldn’t let the young people down. We approached the Key fund for a grant to purchase the cafe after a long wait; we finally heard the bud had been successful which enabled the Local Youth Committee on behalf of Devon County Council to take on the lease giving young people a permanent base in Ilfracombe.
In 2014 we were hit with the news that due to government funding cuts Devon County Council would have to make massive savings to the youth service budget, this included staff redundancies and the closure of a number of youth provisions, the Real McCaf being one of them.
This was the start of another process; we put in an expression of interest to Devon County Council to take over the running of the cafe. In order to do this we formed a Community Interest Company (Belle’s Place CIC). The bid was successful and we took ownership in February 2015 enabling us to start the refurbishment programme.