By Susan Conlon
A new, budget-friendly, community café in Cricklewood opened its doors last week.
The Side Door Café is at Ashford Place, formerly known as Cricklewood Homeless Concern.
It aims to tackle loneliness and isolation by encouraging people to drop in by themselves or to meet friends.
As the name suggests the entrance is not through the main building but via the side door of its name whence the steps lead down to a lovely garden area, designed by one of the volunteers.
The café itself is a small cabin that serves tea, coffee, cakes and biscuits at reasonable prices.
It is a handy spot to meet neighbours or friends, hold small informal meetings and just enjoy the pleasant ambience of the area surrounding it.
It is funded by Brent Council Community Infrastructure Levy, West London Irish Society, Horizon Construction, with support from MP Moran and Arising Builders.
New Mayor of Brent Councillor Arshad Mahmood performed the official opening with a short speech celebrating the diversity of Brent and how it is home to several communities from all over the world.
He said he felt sure that the Café would be a haven for people from all of those communities.
At the opening there was entertainment by the Nostalgia Steel Band, to which a band of ladies who style themselves the Chalkhill Raunchy Rockers clearly enjoyed dancing.
The steel band put their own enjoyable stamp on Danny Boy and the Cricklewood Choir joined in on It’s A Long Way to Tipperary, Brown Girl in the Ring, and other popular favourites.
Ashford Place itself was built on the site of the old Cricklewood Homeless Concern, largely funded by businessman Bill Durkin from Bohola, County Mayo who turned up looking for an old friend, Johnny Conlon, only to learn he had passed away, in 2005.
Mr Durkin decided that they were doing a valuable service for the local community, Irish people and beyond, and decided to support it.
Ashford Place itself is open to anyone from the age of 18 onwards and has its own highly qualified chef who prepares healthy, tasty three-course meals Monday to Friday, for £3 per person.