Not for profit café partnership at London Museum of Water & Steam

The London Museum of Water & Steam is a small museum and having a café has always been an important part of the visitor offer. But the challenge has always been how to make a café work with 23,000 visitors when AIM recommend 44,000 for a viable café. Liz Power, Director of the museum, tells us about their solution. 

The solution has been to give the space to a charity – a not for profit who could use the space for both running a café and giving opportunities for young people with learning disabilities.

I was put in touch with Our Barn by the young services leader at our local council and the charity were immediately interested. Setting up this partnership was a quick and easy process, helped by the fact we had worked together before, and the CEO of the charity, Karen Adams had been a long-time visitor to the Museum. Our Barn had been on the lookout for a space from which they could run a supported work experience café opportunity for their young people; in fact they even had a funding bid ready to support the work.

The Museum has a long-term commitment to hosting and working with people with disabilities, so this partnership felt like a natural extension. We hope that the café will become a feature of the local area in its own right and give us a launch pad to work with other community organisations.

For Our Barn this was a project that had been in their sights for a number of years, but the right venue proved elusive. They were seeking a balance of a realistic café setup without the pressure of a commercially viable space. The Museum was the perfect solution.  As Karen says, “When the long-term impact of what was happening with COVID-19 became more obvious, we realised that external work placements would be next to impossible to find. We had to consider every alternative for our young people.”

There is of course lots of learning for us both, and at times we have thought this is a crazy thing to do in the middle of a pandemic, but when we opened for half term it worked, for the charity and its young people and for the Museum and its visitors.

Liz Power – Director, London Museum of Water & Steam
Karen Adams – Co-Founder and Manager, Our Barn


AIM Partners