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Food and art at the Tulip cafe in Barking

PUBLISHED: 14:50 31 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:49 11 August 2010

FOOD, work and art seem to be the perfect ingredients for an ordinary life filled with happiness and well-being. One of this year s applicants in the community involvement category for the Barking and Dagenham Business Awards, Tulip Social Enterprise Lt

FOOD, work and art seem to be the perfect ingredients for an ordinary life filled with happiness and well-being.

One of this year's applicants in the community involvement category for the Barking and Dagenham Business Awards, Tulip Social Enterprise Ltd (TSEL), based an innovative business concept on these three factors.

The organisation, a trading subsidiary of the Tulip Mental Health Group, runs the Tulip Café Gallery in Barking Learning Centre.

The cafe was launched in December last year to provide healthy, affordable food and good coffee to customers in a stylish and artistic environment.

It also provides training, work placements and exhibition space to its mental health service users.

Andrew Law, operations director of the charity and director of TSEL, said: "It becomes a place where people get back into mainstream society and gives more opportunities to service users."

He stressed how important food preparation was for people with mental health problems and said: "Eating together and sharing food together is an incredibly sociable bonding process whereas people with mental health problems often live on their own and eat on their own."

The artworks on the cafe walls are made by Tulip's service users, who draw immense confidence from seeing their work exhibited.

Mr Law said: "People with mental health problems can be extremely creative.

"The pictures are up there on the wall and they're for sale. We sold one of them for £350.

"We are also looking to do six to eight-week work placements where they will then get a certificate in food preparation.

"Being in work has a strong effect on mental health. It's where most of our friendships come from. A job increases confidence.

"People feel they're giving something back into society," said Mr Law.

"This is what's exciting about the café. It's right there in the Barking and Dagenham Learning Centre. It's part of ordinary life."

The award categories are; Business of the Year; Innovation; Community Involvement; Marketing Excellence; Retailer of the Year; Training and Development; Best New Business; Growth Business of the Year; and Sole Trader/Micro-business including E-Business.

Entries will also be eligible to enter the London-wide Thames Gateway Business Awards sponsored by Archant London, publishers of the POST.

The closing date is May 1. Application forms are available by calling (020) 227 3319 or on-line via the link on the our website www.bdpost.co.uk


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