I’ve long banged on about Leeds being a ‘city of debate’, but one of the things it lacked was a forum to bring it all together – a sort of ‘one-stop-shop’ for all the public discussion groups in the city. That’s now happened with the setting-up on Meetup of Café Everythinque.
Café Everythinque is the brainchild of Margo Hanson, a Research Manager at the University of Leeds Sustainability Research Institute, and Tom Bliss, a lecturer in Landscape and Sustainability at Leeds Metropolitan University, video maker and former musician.
1. When and why did you set up Café Everythinque? And who’s the site for?
I first found about Meetup a couple of years ago (http://www.meetup.com/). It’s an online social networking site that enables members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as books, sports, films, business, and so on. Users enter their post code or their city and the topic they want to meet about and the website helps them arrange a place and time to meet. Over the next year or so, I met some great people hiking, mountain biking, at musical gatherings and film showings – it’s a simple and brilliant concept.
Part of my job is to arrange public lectures on energy, climate change and sustainability-related topics. Back in February, when thinking about how we might reach new audiences, it struck me that to my knowledge, there wasn’t a Meetup group in Leeds that captured the many discussion groups and one off lectures and debates that were happening around the city so, having floated the idea to my friend, co-organiser Tom Bliss, we agreed to set up a Meetup group and see what happened. The name, Café Everythinque was inspired by Café Scientifique and nicely summed up the idea that it’s about bringing people together who are interested in thinquing, meeting and talking about life’s big and small questions, from ‘What will the future be like?’ to ‘Why do bald dogs have bad teeth?’.
2. Do you think it’s been successful so far and, if so, what have been the signs of success?
Seven months on, we have approaching 200 members and new thinquers join every week. Our growing number of events organisers have posted about a hundred events, from one-off lectures to regular series, including the Leeds Salon, Café Scientifique, Café Psychologique, Green Drinks, Taking Soundings, Leeds Skeptiks and the University of Leeds Classics Series. Our most popular event, was “The Importance Of Being Interested”, with award winning comedian and science enthusiast Robin Ince, whilst a collaboration between two Café Everythinque members has resulted in a recent University of Leeds/private sector joint bid for research funding, an exciting and unexpected outcome.
3. As you say, many of Leeds’ public discussion and presentation groups already use Café Everythinque. Are there any criteria for being accepted onto the site, or that you’d like groups to follow?
Tom and I haven’t set any criteria for being accepted. We’re both liberal minded and simply keen to provide an easy way of people finding out about the huge number of discussion, debates and other ‘thinquing’ events happening across the city.
4. Apart from letting people know what’s coming-up, how else do you think Café Everythinque can be useful?
Whilst for some people, Café Everythinque may be simply a one-stop-shop which signposts a good proportion of discussion related events in Leeds, the spirit of Meetup is that it brings people together who share a common interest. So for me, it’s important that where possible, those who post also host events, enabling members who’ve signed up to meet each other before or at the event. Humans are social animals yet in a city of several hundred thousand people it can be difficult to find like minded souls. The beauty of Meetup is that however unusual your interest, there’ll likely be a group of people who shares it and if not, for a few pounds a months, you can set up your own group. Since launching Café Everythinque, I’ve met many remarkable and lovely people whose paths I would probably never had crossed and have been inspired to attend events I wouldn’t otherwise have known about. Many members have said the same.
5. Do you have any plans to organise any Café Everythinque events?
This may happen in time but what has struck me is that there’s a phenomenal amount of stuff already happening in Leeds so for now, I’m simply glad that the Meetup Group is providing a useful means of promoting what’s on and providing a forum to bring people with shared interests together.
So if you’re a public discussion groups that wants to advertise its events, contact Margo or Tom via Café Everythinque and if you wish to receive details of discussion, debates and ad-hoc thinquing events across the city, sign up to Café Everythinque at: http://www.meetup.com/Cafe-Everythinque-Leeds/.
Paul Thomas is co-founder of The Leeds Salon.