It is with deep sadness that we inform our guests; our time in Wolverton has come to an end. Bar Bar Black Sheep will cease to trade on 24th December 2023.
Ten years ago, we had a single objective- to improve the cultural landscape of Wolverton. Bar Bar achieved this plan and was only ever meant to be a short-term Social Enterprise project. But, due to your amazing support- its success meant we took on a second lease for a further five years, which is now coming to an end.
We feel that Bar Bar has, from many of the wonderful stories that you have shared with us, managed to facilitate a vibe of equality, exploration, adventure and connection. A small box of wonder, in a forgotten part of town, bizarrely arranged with nuanced furniture, books, plants and the coffee sack ceiling; there was nowhere else quite like it in Milton Keynes. We demonstrated our commitment to only ever stocking strains and roasts of coffee, that are socially and responsibly- owned, managed and operated, with clear focus on people and planet, before profit.
We welcomed and encouraged you to setup tribes of ‘resource locators’, ‘graffiti creators’, ‘(witch) craft makers’, ‘reform educators’, ‘feminist activators’, ‘discourse disruptors’ and so many more unique gatherings of people. All of which created a truly different and relevant cultural programme for Wolverton: Cannabis reform and education, book club, life drawing, live music and storytelling, student and professional art exhibitions, fundraising events, celebrations, the hugely successful Block Party and of course, the wake of our beloved Vera.
9th August 1935-20th April 2023
For the entire period of operation (2016-2024), we have donated resource, capital, finance, support, guidance, and services- valuing £270,000, to schools, community spaces, charities, volunteer and resident led projects, local artists, business startups, freelancers, social enterprises, town councils, hospitals, and to individuals we have directly helped. This only happened because tens of thousands of you helped too. When you visited and purchased coffees and/or donated suspended coffees- That hug in a mug enabled over a quarter of a million Social Return to the community. Whether you were catching up with a friend, having a meeting, thrashing out a thesis on a laptop, or needing access to emergency support and guidance, you enabled so many other people to have opportunities that to some, would have been impossible otherwise.
So, why are we moving? who are we doing this for?
With rising costs do we really want Mr Suit, who has a percentage in the energy companies, to benefit, or the kids that can’t access arts provision? Or the new parents that need support? The queer people that are excluded from much of new city development and growth. The narratives and experiences of black people that aren’t authentically heard. The local sports and wellbeing clubs that provide valuable provision for children and young people. We could go on –
We know where our loyalties lie, with you. Always. Which is why focus is now given to parts of the organisation that can put People and Planet before Profit- especially profit for capitalists over communities!
We cannot justify, or even consider reducing our annual average, social financial investments of £10,000 a year, in order to pay the unknown shareholders of energy firms, and the city council who have chosen to remove the discretionary business rate relief for non-profits. We would rather cut them all off, before cutting off this much needed investment into our communities. We wouldn’t be black sheep if we didn’t launch some counter-action to the current, inequitable narratives.
In being able to forecast and see that this is the right time to step back, and to finish a project that has grown well beyond its planned lifecycle, is a lucky perspective to have. It would be irresponsible to not acknowledge this position and act on it, making decisions transparently and authentically, with our stakeholders in mind.
Many small retail and hospitality ventures will never be able to access this opportunity to see ahead, and to those that have joined the increasing ‘coffee map’ of the city, we wish you every success and encourage everybody to support these locally owned, small businesses. When we opened, we were very much on our own, but now the people of the city have a plethora of cafes to explore as the city grows. We will continue to bang the drum for local, socially responsible, alternatively viable options to the mainstream.
We want to assure all our regular guests that this is not the End. There will be new and exciting ways for you to continue engaging and experiencing with us, and we welcome you over at the Black Sheep Collective:
At times it has felt like we are trying to be many things, all at once. Whilst we have achieved this balancing act for some time now, it has required sacrifices. Many of which, have been made so selflessly by our people. It is time now to rest, regroup and reignite as the black sheep move on to the next adventures.
To everyone, whoever you are, and whatever the ways were in which we had moments together, thank you. Look after each other.
We love you.