The Canvas: Vegan Cafe | Creative Venue | Community Hub
But what exactly is a Happy Café? What differentiates it from any other kind of caffeine-oriented place? Well, there’s a clue there—it’s less about the lattes served and more about what this space creates, the connections and the activity that happens here.
From the outside this yellow splash of a storefront just off Brick Lane is not exactly what it seems. You can just treat The Canvas like any other café—and if you do we recommend the freakshakes, unbelievably a slab of cake perched precariously on top of a ceramic mug of your choice (we chose the cloud/ rainbow one) filled with a creamy, non-dairy milkshake. But there are hints of something else afoot with the invitation to draw on the wall and answer questions like ‘what does community mean to you?’ and ‘what’s your happy place’.
There’s also the pay-it-forward board which invites you to add a drink or meal to your order for someone who might not be able to afford it. And this café is 100% vegan and all the food served is homemade. A mission to do good, to be good, determines everything in this café. All those buzzwords: sustainablilty, local, low-footprint, form the foundations of the Canvas Cafe. This extends to the suppliers that it works with, which includes local coffee purveyor Square Mile Coffee and Pip+Nut which doesn’t use any palm oil.
Beyond its café appearance it’s kind of the dream of positivity, exactly the kind of place that we find ourselves longing for at If Lost Start Here. The Canvas puts people—their ideas, their needs, their lives—at the center of what it does. That means there’s true generosity in how it operates. And if there’s a bit of cynicism there, let’s get that out the way right now. This isn’t some wishy-washy place that makes nice aphorisms and cute branding. It fundamentally operates from a place of living its values and combats such lifestyle nasties as loneliness, mental ill health, and climate change.
This is all encapsulated in the Community Hub, a white-walled blank canvas of a space for individuals, organizations and charities to try out their ideas for positive activitism. Renting space is expensive in London but this one room is offered for free to incubate ideas that can make people’s lives better. In return The Canvas just asks for donations to its Pay It Forward program.
The Community Hub has become a vital early supporter of innovative ideas for those things that we’re now finding we need in our lives to function better. Future events on the schedule include Hugs and Cuddle workshops, free meditation sessions from Inner Space, and improv for life. It already has an impactful history of supporting great causes in their early days: Places like the Museum for Happiness and Mike’s Table (which serves refugees) got their start here.
Since it was founded in 2014, by Ruth Rogers (not River Café, but the actress and puppeteer) as the blank space for the community and an outlet for both creativity and positivity, The Canvas has flourished. It now has an active program of partnerships. Each month sees 50-60 events with everyone from the perfectly named Revolting Vegans Supper Club—which offers a 6-course menu while taking on issues around food waste and the environmental impact of what we don’t get to eat—to Raining Sessions, where twenty-somethings get to share their stories and receive support. And The Canvas roams off-site too: over the summer they provided free meals and sport and craft activities to kids in Tower Hamlets.
Exhausted yet? The Canvas wants to do even more. They have just completed a fundraising campaign to renovate the Community Hub space which means more events, more support of great ideas, more people helped, more grass roots beneficial social change. Add another 5-years, we hope, and The Canvas will have brought even more people together in that big ole-city of London around positivity, innovation and creativity.