Today, in our continuing series the changing face of social enterprise, we look at Evolve @ The Adam & Eve. Read on to find out how an old Victorian boozer is being given a new lease of life — and a new social purpose.
There has been a pub called the Adam & Eve on the corner of Bradford Street and Warner Street in Digbeth for over two hundred years. In the 1950s it was a well-known trad-jazz venue; in the 60s, 70s and 80s it was part of Birmingham’s thriving indie music scene, and in the 90s and the 2000s it rose to prominence as a dance and club venue. But its latter years were troubled and in 2015 this historic old pub was closed down following a triple stabbing.
But now three organisations have come together to give The Adam & Eve a new lease of life — and a very different purpose.
The building has been purchased by social housing trusts Spring Housing Association and New Leaf Living, and in partnership with Aquarius, the recovery charity, The Adam & Eve is being transformed into Evolve @ The Adam & Eve, a cafe and events space dedicated to providing training and employment opportunities for young people who are recovering from personal crisis, mental ill-health, addiction, offending or homelessness. Aquarius has responsibility for developing the Evolve cafe and events space but there will also be new flats with supported living assistance and these units are currently being built by Spring Housing and New Leaf Living.
All profits generated will be reinvested in support for young people — and Birmingham desperately needs these services because recent research by Shelter reveals that Birmingham is now the worst city for homelessness outside the south-east, with over 12,000 people homeless, at risk of homelessness, in temporary accommodation, or sleeping on the streets. In the West Midlands, government figures released at the end of last year reveal that over 5,000 children and expectant mothers are living in temporary accommodation due to homelessness. Mental ill-health amongst young people is also of particular concern. Recent research reveals that one-in-ten children and one-in-five young adults have a diagnosable mental health disorder, while access to treatment continues to worsen. The average maximum waiting time for a first appointment with mental health services is now six months and almost ten months before treatment commences.
An initial crowdfunding campaign in 2017 enabled work to begin and Evolve Cafe is now trading, offering a breakfast menu until noon, and premium sandwiches, coffee, teas, cakes and pastries through to 3pm. All of the suppliers the café uses have been chosen for their ethical, social enterprise or fair-trade values and include Union Coffee Roasters, Brew Tea Co. (which is one of the new movement of B Corporations, committed to tested social and environmental standards) and natural drinks company Belvoir Fruit Farms. You can read what its satisfied customers are saying on its Facebook page.
Evolve is Aquarius’s first foray into social enterprise but it won’t be the last. The organisation is currently developing a second coffee bar at 610 Pershore Street, Edgbaston, and has plans for a third by the end of this year. Further planned expansion into this market in 2019 will bring the total to six. By the end of this year Aquarius’s various Evolve ventures will be able to support twelve trainees, offering work experience and training in catering, hospitality, customer service, stock control and cash handling.
The development is being led by Ben Timms-Reader, Evolve’s operations manager. Ben is new to the social enterprise sector but relishes the challenge of developing the Evolve concept. “My own background has been in the strictly commercial sector,” he explains. “I was previously head of food for a major coffee chain, but when the position with Aquarius came up I saw that my commercial skill-set could be put to social use rather than just lining the pockets of shareholders — and I’m loving every minute of it.”
Surrounded by other social enterprises — the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter has become justly famous as one of the largest concentrations of social enterprises outside London — and at the heart of a growing cluster of recovery services that includes Changes UK’s Recovery Central, Evolve @ The Adam & Eve has a ready market on its doorstep. But Ben Timms-Reader also acknowledges that much remains to be done to raise the business’s profile across Birmingham.
“We’ve got a two-year development and marketing plan in place,” Ben says, “and we are about to engage a PR agency to help promote what we’re doing. But there’s a lot that people can do to help us make Evolve @ The Adam & Eve a success. One of the most important things we need is for our young people’s placements to be sponsored by supportive employers. As well as increasing the employment progression opportunities open to them, this would also enable us to focus more resources on providing the personalised, wrap-around support some need. And of course you can eat, relax, meet and hold your events and conferences at Evolve. Every pound you spend at Evolve will help us support young people.”
How you can help
Evolve @ The Adam & Eve is looking for:
→ Sponsors: It is keen to find sponsors for its young people — hospitality businesses, for example, willing to offer continuing employment, mentoring or additional placements, so that it can expand the pool of trainees. Corporates that can help with sponsorship — for instance, £3,000 in sponsorship will completely cover the placement costs of a young person, and this means that Aquarius can then focus its resources on providing personalised support for there trainee.
→ Conference bookings: Evolve @ The Adam & Eve offers a well-equipped venue with a conference room (capacity 35 seated; 80 or so standing for other kinds of events/functions). With its raised stage and flexible lay-out, the conference room offers an unusual and informal setting for anyone looking for meeting space in Digbeth. In-house catering is available from Evolve’s own kitchen.
→ Cafe customers: Evolve urgently needs to spread the word about its premium cafe service. All of its suppliers are either social enterprises or ethical businesses. So come on — help read the word. Meet, socialise and relax at Evolve @ The Adam & Eve. Treat yourself ands your friends and work colleagues to breakfast; stop by for a mid-morning coffee and Danish; have an occasional lunchtime treat.
→ Online sales: You can buy local, ethical and hand-made goods from the online shop.
→ New suppliers: And Evolve is on the look-out for new suppliers — social enterprises, ethical businesses, social mission ventures… Baked goods, produce, catering supplies, gifts and products for the online shop… If your business has something to offer get in touch with Evolve @ The Adam & Eve!
→ Evolve @ The Adam & Eve 201 Bradford St, Digbeth, Birmingham B12 0JD
→ Evolve @ The Adam & Eve conference bookings & costs
→ To learn more about Evolve @ The Adam & Eve, send mail to operations manager Benjamin Timms-Reader
→ Read all our changing face of social enterprise stories