Transfusions (Two different kinds.)

(By Bik)

As you may know by now, my Dad has an uninvited guest growing on his pancreas which was spotted fairly early, fortunately.  You may have read about it when we put out our call for Patrons at the start of the summer.

He is undergoing a pounding by some petty potent chemotherapy that isn’t commonly used for this in the UK, especially for an 83 year old. The result of his half-way scan is that it appears to be under arrest (well it’s the same size and when he started, which is a good thing!) I thought the photo, attached, would be appropriate .. we found his old policeman’s helmet in a cupboard!


It’s pretty tough going for someone so active as he, as the drug is known to cause increasing fatigue. So Dad’s had to give up one of his three beloved organic allotment plots that he’s tended for 40 years and maybe another soon. Hopefully he’ll hang on to the one with the apple tree and fruit bushes.

I’d never thought about donated blood being used to help people on chemo until he was offered two units recently to help him get some energy back. This transfusion will hopefully help get him through the summer and his second round of treatments at QA. I’m so eternally grateful to the stranger/s who went out of there way one day to give blood to someone they didn’t know. A pure and selfless act. (You can join the blood donor register here:

During all of this, The Art House has also been receiving a transfusion, this time of money, in the form of monthly donations of between £5 and £50 from around 130 of you.. some people we know very well and some, relative strangers, people who have told us they would like to visit more often if they could, but can’t, but like that we’re here anyway and want us to stay that way and to continue being a business that makes choices with our hearts first, and the balance sheet second.

Click here if you are interested in become a Patron

This summer we would normally be running a funded project to help people less fortunate access the arts, and the funding would close our annual £7k ‘hole’ that we always seem to have after the summer downturn. But my Dad has taken priority this year which is why we have turned to our friends and asked for help; and you have responded amazingly.. but we still need more. The donations so far have helped us out of some scrapes already, but there are some pretty hefty bills looming, so if you think you can find a spare £1.25 a week to help us out, you have no idea how much of a relief that would be right now.

You can find out a little more about why we need funding, and a link to get you set up, here:

If you are interested in more background to the reasons why our costs are considerably higher than most businesses of a similar nature, we have written about this here

Don’t worry if you can’t afford to commit to making donations right now. There are lots of other ways you can help (maybe you could write a TripAdvisorreview, consider volunteering, share our events on your timeline or just come and visit sometime.)

Posted in Uncategorized

I kept meaning to go in…… a eulogy for another favourite place

We hear this phrase a lot when we go out and folks realise where we’re from.

‘Oh The Art House!  I’ve heard of that – I keep meaning to come in’

A proper old school bookshop - becoming rarer by the minute.

A proper old school bookshop – becoming rarer by the minute.

Bik and I joke that, if we had a quid for every time we heard this, we’d be able to fund this place without having to bake so many cakes!

But today I said it myself, about a favourite place of mine, only now it’s too late.

I’ve just seen the news that Peter Rhodes Bookshop in Portswood is to close.

They are having a closing down sale and need your support – see the Facebook event here for details.

(Please note, it’s the physical bookshop which is closing, Peter Rhodes books will continue to trade online – but you can’t have a coffee in an online shop, alas).

I am pretty gutted.  Bik and I spent a lot of our planning time there when The Art House was just a dream, and even looked at a premises nearby as we thought they’d make good neighbours.  I had an art show there, we went in for coffee, attended events and were pretty regular visitors.  I remember many interesting chats, chance encounters and random conversations.

Then my habits changed (read:  The Art House happened).  I kept meaning to pop in on my day off, for a coffee, or to attend an event there, but honestly?

I hadn’t been there for well over a year.  More fool me!

It’s the same with other places now closed – The Bent Brief, The Newport Inn in Braishfield – places I went to infrequently, even though I loved them dearly.

There just doesn’t seem to be the time, but then one day the chance is gone and you realise there probably was a few hours, here and there, to go and support the place, and enjoy it whilst it was there.

It’s hard to say this, but The Art House won’t always be here.  Nothing lasts forever, and although we have no plans to close, we never know what the future may hold.  This summer, the challenge of Bik’s Dad’s illness put our future in question, although our growing number of patrons is keeping that particular wolf from the door – for now.

So I guess I’m saying, don’t be me!  I’m busy, you’re busy, hey – we’re all busy!  It’s the curse of our times to never have time.

But lovely places only carry on if we go to them.  Loving your favourite venue from afar just isn’t enough, you need to get up, go there and put some money in the till.

I urge you, this summer, to get out to some of your favourite places and enjoy them, whilst they are still there for you to enjoy.

Posted in Community news & views, Future plans, Getting involved, Uncategorized

Grant Sharkey: A peek at 6/40 IGNORAMUS and a variety show!

Grant Sharkey will be trying out some new stuff from 6/40: IGNORAMUS on Thursday 23 July 2015 from 7.30pm in our downstairs cafe space.

Cha Cha Boom Boom will be there too, doing some of her hilarious routines

Winchester’s Cha Cha Boom Boom is quite possibly THE most remarkable burlesque artist you will ever see!

Cha Cha Boom Boom started her own style of ‘burlesquing’ in 2007 when she ‘accidentally’ won The Whoopee Club’s ‘Tournament of the Tease’ at the Bethnal Green Workings Mens Club, London with her act ‘Swan Fake’ a parody of Swan Lake, stripping and humourous social commentry of the cult of celebrity.

Shocked at her success at irreverently cheeking convention Cha Cha has gone on to bring her unique vision to cabaret, burlesque, comedy and spoken word audiences across the land.

Plus some comedy from his friend, Darryl Edge (self-described on his Twitter account as “Tickled Pig 2014 Finalist. Idiot. Lover. Twattish Yarn Spinner. Southampton.”)

Entry by optional donation – please give what you can to keep The Art House‘s lights on! Alternatively, pop a donation of non-perishable food in the No Limits food bank collection basket near the counter.

Posted in Uncategorized

What’s on 30 June – 5 July 2015

We’ve a busy week so we thought we’d list it all here so you don’t miss a thing…. with links to the Facebook events to make it simple to find all the info you need!



Nepal Earthquake Relief Fundraiser with Jonathan Fashole-Luke and friends
Gigs in the Gallery, Tuesday 30/6/2015,  7.30pm

Entry by donation on the door, please give generously!



Le Cafe des Amis
Wednesdays 12:30 – 1.30pm


British Sign Language Cafe
Wednesdays 6 – 7pm


Daff Workshops: Evening Drawing
Wednesday 1/7/15 7pm


Poetry Stanza Group
Wednesday 1/7/2015, 7:30pm


The Art House Book Club
Wednesday 1/7/2015, 7:30pm


Crafty Cafe Creativ-TEA drop in! Woolly crafts
Thursdays 3 – 6pm


Origami Club
Thursday 2/7/15, 7:30pm


Southampton Story Club
Thursday 2/7/15, 8-10pm



Quortl (Modern Jazz-Fusion) + A Formal Horse (Progressive Rock Quartet)
Gigs in the Gallery – Friday 3/7/2015  7.30pm



The Science Room at The Art House – Could machines develop consciousness?
2.45 – 4pm, by donation, all welcome


Appalachia (American Roots) + Elsie The Lonesome Cowgirl (AKA Jane Goldsack)
Gigs in the Gallery Saturday 4/7/2015   7.30pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Urbane Forager: Fruit and Nuts for Free – talk, walk and book signing

We are delighted to welcome Alan Gibson, AKA The Urbane Forager for a talk and book signing, and hopefully (weather permitting) a local walk!

Saturday 13 June 2015, 11am at The Art House

jacketAlan’s mission is to promote the fun and healthy family foraging activity of identifying fruit and nut trees on local public land, locating them on a map and then picking, eating, processing and preserving the produce.

He says:

“Foraging for us is all about fun and having a healthy balance it is the opportunity to do something hearty and sociable; it also gets me up trees with the kids, and helps prevent anyone from getting rickets, scurvy or just too fat. Processing and cooking the produce is another skill to learn together.”

Join Alan for a talk, with hopefully a walk and some social time from 11am until around lunchtime. There is no set cost for the event but donations to The Art House are welcomed.

He will have 100 specially printed, first edition books for sale at the event, these will cost £12.00 each (cash only please).

The Urbane Forager: Fruit and Nuts for Free

Join the Facebook event here

Posted in Uncategorized

A bunch of hippies jumping off the roof..

For a bunch of hippies who had faith enough in others to jump off a building and grow their wings on the way down, we haven’t done so bad. But my Dad is ill and The Art House needs some help to get through this summer.As an experiment in how to run a value-driven arts venue, that receives little funding and with a cafe that wins awards for it’s ethics and quality, we’re frankly all amazed to be going still, into our 8th year. Blessings to the thousands of people who have contributed to this achievement – you know who you are, patrons, all. Literally, every tiny action has kept us afloat and allowed us to reach distant shores we wouldn’t have dreamt of when we set out. If you are reading this, this probably means you.. so thank you.

Find out more about our fund here.

The Art House is not quite a business in the usual sense, nor are we quite like any other arts venue. We receive little* external funding, but prefer, instead, to rely upon the patronage of the people / misfits / dreamers who use us. We are here to support and give exposure to grassroots and emerging arts, and to fund this through the income from our cafe. We believe that participation in the arts builds joy, confidence, resilience and community, all things we need now more than ever.

But we go further than this. For us, there should be no burden placed upon people or planet in order for us to be able to do what we do. To this end, all our goods and services are ethically sourced and local where possible.

\\ Organic and vegetarian, means a low burden on the Earth and on people’s health
\\ Fair trade means no burden on the poor
\\ Vegan means no exploitation of animals
\\ Local means money stays here & doesn’t get siphoned off to a head office in London or an offshore account
\\ Secondhand and up-cycled, and renewable energy, means preservation of the biosphere and the planet’s resources

But there is an equation to balance because all the above costs much much more than the uncaring, not heart-centred, alternative. We balance this equation by having volunteers coming forward and giving their time. (Find out about volunteering here – They ensure we are able to do all of the above while keeping our prices at an affordable level for as many people as possible to enjoy.

*This works. Nearly all the time! But there is still a (really small) financial gap, and it appears mostly in the summer, much like the antarctic ozone hole. It is just one of those things, and no matter what we try (we’ve tried everything) we just can’t get enough people through the door in the summer and our income drops to precarious levels – we start taking on water. Our income falls short by almost exactly 7% – about £15,000 this year.

[Find out more about our fund here:]

We are SO close to proving this experiment can work! So, what do we normally do? Well, each year we have managed to secure some funding to run projects that address a need in society – we have worked with the learning disabled, people with head injuries and the long term unemployed. And we have closed the gap each time!

This year, however, this can’t happen. Jani and I are going to be looking after my Dad, an Art House volunteer himself, as he has been diagnosed, and is receiving treatment for, inoperable cancer, and that has to take priority. He’s doing pretty well (look at his garden!) But it leaves us with a problem. The Art House is not going to get through the summer shortfall without some help and we’re hoping you can be there for us.


We know many of you would like to come to an event or workshop, or drop in for a meal, but just can’t – you are all busy people, we get that. So would you consider becoming a patron? We are looking for 300 of our friends who can spare £1.25 a week to hold us afloat and close that gap.. plug the leak; keep us steaming along.

Every time someone else becomes a patron, it’s like getting a new buoyancy aid in a choppy sea and gives us energy to get through the day. And everyone who contributes does so in the knowledge that each penny is used wisely and goes directly into making the world a little bit brighter by helping The Art House fill it with more art.

Thanks for reading. See you on the other side.

[Find out more about our fund here:]
Posted in Uncategorized

The (scary) act of asking

I’ve just come back from filming our latest little film to get a fundraising thing going…. We need patrons, we’ve come to a point where we know, for certain (especially in the light of having, this summer, to support Bik’s Dad through cancer), that without some kind of solid, steady income, we probably aren’t going to weather all the normal crises cafes face.

I’ve come home with a huge vulnerability hangover from having to ask people for money, on camera.

It looks easy when other nonprofits and charities do it. It isn’t easy.

When we’ve asked for help before, usually when there’s been a crisis (like when we we burgled a few years ago and asked folks to fund our new alarm system and ‘Fool da Robbers’) or during the summer months when we always take less in the cafe, it’s always been one-off. It’s great, this one-off help, but it feels like constant stop-start.

Constant big-push-pause-big-push.

Our cafe income pays all (ALL) the bills, and it goes up and down a lot. Imagine, if you are on a set salary, having a paycheck that goes up and down – and the ups are fine, you can pay the bills, but the downs leave you short.

It’s stressful. So, we made a video this afternoon to give people the chance to help us with this. I know people support what we do, I also know the very folks who are into us are busy people – artists, self employed people, peeps who grown vegetables and go travelling and take long walks and have families and volunteer and……..

So many people say ‘I keep meaning to come in’ or ‘I wish I could get to you more often’.

I know these people would like to know The Art House will be there when they can come in – for a workshop, for lunch, to meet a friend or go to a gig.

Being a patron means you know we’re still there, basically. There for the artists of Southampton, there sticking to our values of promoting grassroots art, ethical food and living lightly on the planet.

Our patrons will know (already do, those who have signed up) that they are supporting something they truly believe in.  They’ll know we’ll make every penny count, and spend it wisely and ethically. They’ll know that the chance of walking past our boarded-up outside because we had a few quiet months is reduced with every contribution they make.

So why is it so hard to ask?

Me being wired for sound and pulling a mightily silly face about the whole thing

Me being wired for sound and pulling a mightily silly face about the whole thing

We’re socialised (or at least I was) not to ask for things, especially money.  Most people are shockingly bad at it, and I am no exception.  Asking for money opens you up to criticism that can hit you in very vulnerable places – we all have a lot of ‘stuff’ around money, I certainly do.

Some people give you flack when you ask, and if you listen to those people (or the inner critics in your own mind who sound rather a lot like them) then you’ll never get anywhere.

That’s why I bit the bullet this afternoon, got wired for sound, sat in front of the camera with Kevin (who had volunteered to film for us – thanks Kevin!) and just ASKED. Video to follow once Bik has edited it!

Oh, and I’ll ask again –  If you would like to be a Patron, please click here!

A little (actually huge) helper for me was Amanda Palmer’s book ‘The Art of Asking’ which not only really reconnected me to the feeling we had when first setting up, with it’s raw honesty and clear purpose, but addressed a lot of the fears I have in real way.  I recommend this book mega amounts – order it from your local bookshop here and you can watch her TED talk on this here:

Posted in Uncategorized

More than socially responsible – socially purposeful!

Since we started back in 2008, and even before that when Bik, Ziggy and I ran not-for-profit events elsewhere, we’ve seen some big changes in how businesses are run.

When we started, we were (I’m pretty sure) the only place in Southampton you could get Fair Trade tea, coffee, sugar and choccy as standard, and only a few places were making tentative inroads into sourcing food locally.

Now, we’re delighted to say, this is fairly common (it makes going out much easier for us!) to find Fairtrade, and lots of places use local food and drinks on their menus.

Granted, there isn’t another organic place in Southampton yet and we’re one of very few places in Hampshire that caters properly for a vegan diet, but on the whole things have improved a great deal since we started, and we’re delighted.

Overall, even bigger chains are doing ‘social responsibility’ in a way that we couldn’t really have imagined when we set out.

So, as these positive changes happen in business, where do we fit in?  How are we any different from a commercial cafe doing Fairtrade and local stuff and showcasing local art?

Well, for starters – other businesses, no matter how ethical, generally exist to make a profit.  Whilst we don’t in any way see this as negative in itself (quite the opposite – we wholeheartedly support independent entrepreneurs making a living and creating local jobs!), it does change the way a business runs, it has to.

One of our founding principles, something we can never change, is that we are run on a not-for-profit basis.

This means, on a practical level, that although we still need to make the money it takes to run our space, no shareholders get payouts at the end of the year, and we cannot sell The Art House and retire to Barbados with the cash.  We don’t have to make any extra on top of what it costs to run, and if we do, we can use it to meet our aims.

In practice, it means that ethical trading and supporting art aren’t just add-on benefits for us, they’re the whole reason we are here.

This changes everything.

It can be challenging financially, to be honest, but it is also liberating to be able to make choices with our hearts first, and the balance sheet second.

The principle behind this is that, to make a profit, you pretty much have to externalise something somewhere along the way.  Whilst it’s possible to add value through your people, through being innovative, and in other ways, it’s quite hard to make much profit without skimping somewhere along the line.

Skimping on social justice.  Skimping on ecological sustainability.  Skimping on treating people fairly.

It’s called externalisation and it’s explained beautifully in this short film, ‘The Story of Stuff’

So, we set up as a not-for-profit so that we could balance *not* externalising our costs as much as possible with providing something ordinary people could afford.

We did it so that we could run for a purpose other than making money, and it’s a lovely way to work.  We think more businesses can run this way – and judging from the increase in social enterprise or ‘The Third Sector’, we are not alone in thinking this.

We see our little place as a testing ground for a new way of doing business.  This new way may not look exactly like what we’re doing, but we’re very excited about being one of the pioneering places that’s trying out a new way, a better way for people, animals and planet.


Posted in Behind the scenes, Our philosophy

Political – not party political

We saw a post going around this week about a coffee shop displaying a board saying Tory voters are charged 10% more.  

Whilst it was mildly funny, and obviously meant to be a joke (how would they enforce it, what with the secret ballot and all?!), it was the opposite of our reaction and approach to the next five years.

True, Bik has opened his heart about his views of how we handle this election result and it’s pretty clear he isn’t happy about it, and honestly neither am I!

But let’s just get one thing clear.

Party politics can be very divisive – those in power would like nothing better than to split ordinary people like you and I into factions, pitted against each other instead of keeping a close eye on them.

We don’t want to play that game, frankly it’s up to you which party you support.  

I wrote a while back about how we are politically gentle – but not politically naive and at the moment we’re talking a lot about how we create the world we want in the context of the new government and the planned austerity, which we know will affect our community more than most.

There’s a danger, when you are committed to the values inclusivity and fairness to all, of coming over as wishy-washy about your beliefs.  In fact, I think it’s a reason right-wing politics is still so successful:  it’s easier to come across as strong and decisive, frankly – at least it seems to be – when you are coming from that angle.

I do think that we need a change to our political system, I do think the election results, reflecting only about a quarter of people’s votes, was hugely unfair and I do think the dice were loaded.  I do know that I’ll be called a moaning lefty for saying so, too!

But it’s not time for moaning, or getting into arguments with people.  I have work to do, and I’m saving my energy for that.

So, you’ll be seeing more positive social action coming out of this little place, as we will do all we can to create the world we want in our usual practical, positive, pro-active way.

Within our crew, directors and volunteers, there are a range of ideals and leanings, to be honest.  Not even Bik and I see eye to eye on everything (that would be weird) so we don’t expect to all agree, all the time – and whichever way you lean politically, you should never feel unwelcome here, because you really aren’t.

That’s not us sitting on the fence – that’s us sticking to our value of inclusivity, which means a lot to us.

That said, we’re not going to stop talking about the things that matter to us, even if they are controversial and annoy some people, or lose us a few customers.

A while back somebody complained about the political posts on our Facebook wall and said ‘stick to being a cafe’.

I think they may have missed the reason we are here at all!

See, we’re not really a cafe – at least, that’s not our main purpose. The cafe, whilst it’s a huge part of what we do and something we’re super passionate about doing well, is the way the space is funded, a way for us to stay independent and do things according to our own principles.

This is what we are:

A space for grassroots art and artists, a champion for the environment and part of a global movement to build a positive community for the future – which includes speaking up about social justice, taking take of those who are vulnerable and all the things that go with that.

It’s a big mission for a little place, but we’re up for it and we know many of you are, too.

So I hope you can love us as we are, a mostly-left-leaning mish-mash of kind people trying to make a difference, using cake and art as our tools for doing so.

We certainly love you as you are, dear friend, and appreciate your support so much!

Posted in Uncategorized

There are two ways our collective anger over the right’s fear-fueled ‘victory’ can go.

There are two ways our collective anger over the right’s fear-fueled ‘victory’ can go. It can lead to depression and fatalism (what they would like) or, if channelled, to an expansion of the public sphere by everyone coming together supporting the little things, locally, until it overwhelms them. Not very long ago, the government’s tiny majority would have been seen by the right as a disaster – the only reason they won was because of this man (a right-wing strategist who also works for the tobacco industry).

The fact that they relied on him shows that times have changed and the grip of the establishment is much weaker now than it appears.

So, switch off the news and use the Google. Here are some suggestions:

Positive News
Positive Money
New Statesman

and watching The Keiser Report. (Here’s one to get you started, with Max Keiser talking to Russell Brand)

You will start to recognise the subtle, warping, messages of old media by actively listening to the language being used (media studies students will recognise this exercise.)

And if you’re not angry, you ought to be.  The new government’s austerity programme is an ideologically-driven stitch-up. Don’t stand for it and don’t stick your head in the sand.

What now? Well, we need to look to them a bit like the zombie horde, relentless and unstoppable, getting back up as soon as we are knocked down, until the self-serving elite are finally swept away.

Our anger needs to be harnessed, and focussed-in on compassionate acts that each and every one of us can make every day. It’s something they don’t understand and it scares them silly.

Avoid chains if there is an alternative – support your local businesses and shop ethically, even if it costs more.

Remember that cheap goods are cheap because someone, somewhere in the world, is probably having to go hungry, or have their environment wrecked, to keep the high street and Amazon prices down. Your wallet is a weapon – aim it in the right direction!

Leave the house, even if you don’t feel like it. Keep your feet on the ground and your head in the clouds.

Go to arts events, gigs and talks.

Grow your own food!

Sign petitions, write to MPs (endlessly, keeping them busy), take part in protests. Give to charity. Volunteer.

Every small action puts a little pressure on a seemingly insurmountable edifice that will, eventually, crumble. It must do – it’s inevitable. In the meantime, we will see more and more vulnerable people in need of our compassion over the next five years, more food banks, and more people suffering from mental health problems who are left without their support systems in place.

Please make one action a day to help them. You could perhaps start here

Art House Founding Director

Posted in Uncategorized