Essi Pentti, Charlotte Renard and Sophie Williamson at Yellow Submarine in Park End Street, Oxford

Customers and staff have missed the Yellow Submarine during lockdown, so when the popular Park End Street café opened its doors again, manager Sophie Williamson could not have been happier.

For those yet to visit, Yellow Submarine is an award-winning Oxfordshire charity that believes people with learning disabilities and autism deserve to live life to the full. 

Yellow Submarine runs two social enterprise cafés, one in Oxford, and the other in the leisure centre in Witney (reopening in September), which are co-staffed by people with learning disabilities.

Cakes and bakes at Yellow Submarine

With plans to get all staff back to work as soon as possible, Sophie and her team are thrilled to be serving customers again, despite social distancing measures meaning it is currently only a takeaway service.

And the café is still a ray of welcoming sunshine and the perfect place to grab coffee and cake or a light lunch.

People go to the cafés because of the quality of the coffee and food. It just so happens that over 70,000 customers have also left the door with a different perception of disability.

Sophie, who has worked with Yellow Submarine for seven years, adds: “I love running the cafes, every single day is different, and I have learned so much from the trainees who I work with.”

“We have a training programme for everyone who comes and works with us which continued online during lockdown, but everyone is very keen to get back to work.

“We have all missed each other as well as the customers as we had built up relationships with so many of them.”

With tea, coffee, delicious home-made cakes, courtesy of the charity’s Life Changing Bakes project, sandwiches, and toasties on the menu, the soups and salads are made from surplus food donated by the Oxford Food Bank.

Yellow Submarine is an award-winning charity

“The cakes are all made by the staff as part of a project called Life Changing Bakes using their own recipes, ideas and ingredients, with support from us, to make all the cakes and bakes that we sell in the cafes.” Sophie explains.

Customer favourites such as lemon drizzle loaf cake, banana bread and carrot cake are still big sellers.

The Oxford café has become a firm favourite with people who work locally, but Sophie wants to encourage people from further across Oxford to give them a try too.

Trainees are looking forward to getting back to work

“We are gradually getting busier and our customers have been amazing. As well as providing them with excellent food and drinks, we have helped to educate a lot of about people about autism and disability and in a recent survey we did, it was clear that the customers really love the staff.”

The charity believes people with learning disabilities and autism deserve to live life to the full, and tackles the problem that many people with learning disabilities leave school with limited life skills and as a result poor life chances.

The Life Changing Bakes takeaway ready for afternoon tea

About two thirds of the charity’s  income is now self-generated through the cafes, however they still rely on the generous support of many donors and fundraisers to pioneer new initiatives and run projects.

Yellow Submarine is now open at 12 Park End Street, Oxford call 01865 236119 or go to www.yellowsubmarine.org.uk

Sarah Edwards

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