Second chance for ex prisoners at Newcastle Cathedral

28th July 2021

The Oswin Project, a Northumberland-based charity that gives second chances to carefully selected individuals who have been in prison, will open a new community café in Newcastle Cathedral when it re-opens next month following the completion of its historic transformation.

Newcastle Cathedral has thrown a lifeline to former prisoners to help get their lives back on track and transform their futures.

Café 16 is a joint initiative between the Cathedral, The Oswin Project, and London North Eastern Railway (LNER), which has provided financial support for the programme through its Customer and Community Investment Fund (CCIF).

The café will offer training, mentoring and employment to a team consisting exclusively of prison leavers, or ‘Oswinners’, to enable them to get their lives back on track.

The new café will follow the same model as The Oswin Project’s successful flagship Café 16 (named after the 1916 Royal Flying corps station) in HMP Northumberland, with employment and training utilised as a vehicle to independence, personal growth, and fulfilling lives to prevent re-offending.

The Cathedral café will be supplied with freshly-made produce from Café 16 and its Bakery in HMP Northumberland. Oswinners will gain experience, be supported and of café operations.

Those currently on the programme have provided extremely positive feedback, reporting increased self-confidence, perceptions of competence, and a growing optimism regarding life after prison.

Fiona Sample, Chief Executive Officer of The Oswin Project, said:

“We are thrilled to be opening Café 16 at Newcastle Cathedral. It is a café with a difference and the cake is guilt-free! Every item you purchase transforms lives and the ripple effect spreads. Oswinners obtain skills, and their lives gain purpose and routine. Their families benefit, as does the wider community.”

The Revd Canon Peter Dobson, Newcastle Cathedral’s Canon for Outreach and Discipleship, said:

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with The Oswin Project and LNER, to develop Newcastle Cathedral as a place of opportunity for all people, but most especially for those who find themselves, for all sorts of reasons, facing vulnerability and feeling marginalised.”

“Ex-offenders, like others who are too easily marginalised, will have the chance to receive training and support, not only to run our new community café but also to take on other roles, helping us to assure that the Cathedral is a place for all people, and a ‘go-to’ venue at the heart of the city. Our hope is not simply to provide experience to enhance CVs but for the Cathedral to be a place where people are empowered in their sense of worth, built up in self-confidence and enabled to take hold of the dignity we all deserve. Our particular hope for Café 16 at the Cathedral is that this endeavour, for those who are a part of it, will help to lead to further employment and many more great things.”

David Horne, Managing Director of LNER, said:

“We’re incredibly proud to be supporting Newcastle Cathedral and The Oswin Project in helping people find their way into employment. The introduction of Café 16 will provide opportunities to learn new skills and gain experience, in a safe and supportive environment, and is just the latest initiative that we’ve been able to support through our Customer and Community Investment Fund.”

Café 16 at the Cathedral will open in August 2021 to coincide with Newcastle Cathedral’s reopening, following completion of its historic transformation project, ‘Common Ground in Sacred Space’, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.