by Marian Thornley

I had never before heard the term ‘Cafe Associatif’ when I read a post on the ‘Ceret-en-Transition’ Facebook Page proposing a meeting to discuss the possibility of setting one up in Ceret.

Being interested in Permaculture and sustainability, I had been a non-active member of this group for a while. But let’s go back one. Just what is Permaculture and what does ‘Ceret-en-Transition’ mean — as someone said to me recently, what is it transitioning to exactly?

A quick Google search will tell you that Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design centred around simulating the patterns or features observed in natural ecosystems.

In practice, this can include designing your garden to mimic what is seen in nature with less digging and using natural ways of controlling pests and diseases. Permaculture also involves a social element — how to help communities to come together for the good of all, to encourage interaction, discussion, the exchange of goods and services, and so on. In the UK there are many so-called ‘Transition Towns’ where communities try to put these principles into practice and the ‘Ceret-en-Transition’ group was started 3 or 4 years ago with the aim of promoting these ideas.

I had wanted to get involved but hadn’t seen any projects that seemed feasible for me. Up to now, that is. I attended the first meeting and felt excited about the concept of a cafe where people could buy cheaply a coffee or glass of wine and engage in various activities. The volunteers would offer what activities they were knowledgeable about, as well as manning the cafe for a few hours each week.

Slowly the project started to take shape, but the real obstacle was finding suitable premises. Ceret doesn’t have much surplus space, and what there is, is expensive. Those of us in the group who were able to, offered to support the cafe for 12 months but still rentable space was unaffordable. By the summer it seemed as if the cafe had hit a brick wall.

Then, one of the members of the group suggested that on a temporary basis we use his art gallery – Le Lezard sur le Mur on Rue St. Fereol. He and his wife cleared out their shop, bought cheap tables and chairs, a coffee machine and a bar. The activities offered were printed and placed in the window, and all of a sudden, the place looked like a very inviting cafe!

Last week we opened for the first time. Despite some teething difficulties getting the coffee machine to work, it was a great success with over 50 new members joining and many people signing up for the activities.

If you are interested to join us, this is how it works.

For anyone to be able to come in a buy a drink or partake in any activity, it is necessary to either join up as a member for one day (1€) or for the year (3€ to the end of 2017). Then you can buy a coffee (1€) etc, or join in one of the activities.

Sometimes there may a small fee for the activity if there are materials involved but otherwise they are free, although a donation is always appreciated.

We still need people who could offer activities themselves or help to man the cafe, if not every week then perhaps to be on a reserve list in case someone is on holiday or ill. It’s a great way to meet new people and to improve your French!

For each activity it is necessary to book a place by contacting the facilitator by sms. A full list of the activities on offer, when and who to contact to book a place, can be found HERE, by taking a look at the ‘Ceret-en-Transition‘ Facebook page…. or by looking in the  shop window.

The cafe itself is open from 5.30 to 7.30 every evening except Sundays and Mondays and also on Saturday mornings 10.30-13.00.

Come and join us!

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