STRATFORD, UPON-AVON – On a cold late-winter morning in Shakespeare’s birthplace the foyer at the Other Place theatre is a warm refuge. Conversations are held over coffee and include checking email, reading poetry, and learning. to sew.
Although it looks and feels like a cafe on the picturesque streets of Stratford-upon-Avon’s picture-perfect streets, it is actually a restaurant. “warm hub” Royal Shakespeare Company Drama troupe to welcome people struggling to Sky-high temperatures are heating their homes energy prices.
All over the globe, warm hubs are sprouting Britain By the thousands in this winter soaring Food and energy prices drive millions to Do not lower the thermostat and eat less hot meals. The opposition Labour Party found almost 13,000 of these hubs. They are funded by a mixture of community groups, charities and the government. These hubs can be found in libraries, churches and community centers, as well as a tearoom on King Charles III’s Highgrove estate.
Wendy FreemanA writer, artist and seventh-generation Stratfordian of the Seventh Generation, Germaine heard about RSC’s Warm Hub from a friend. She lives in “a tiny house with no central heating” He relies on the warmth of a coal-fired stove for heat. As many people, she cut back. to Inflation at its highest level since 1980s is causing a crisis in the cost of living.
“You just adapt,” Freeman, now 69 years old, used the center for a peaceful, comfortable environment. to Write a poem. “Little things, like putting less water in the kettle. I was brought up with ‘save the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves.’ I always cook from scratch and eat what’s in season.
“However, it is nice to Warm places to go” she added.
A perfect storm of Russia’s war in Ukraine, lingering pandemic disruption and economic aftershocks of Brexit is putting more people in Britain under financial strain. Households and businesses were hit especially hard after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove up the cost of natural gas needed for heating and helped push the U.K. to the precipice of a recession.
The U.K.’s annual inflation rate was just above 10% in January, with food prices up almost 17% over the year. Some 62% of adults are using less natural gas or electricity to save money, according to the Office for National Statistics. A quarter of households regularly run out of money for essentials, pollster Survation found.
Though oil and natural gas prices have fallen from last year’s peaks, the average British household energy bill is still double what it was a year ago. Costs for many are due to rise by another 20% on April 1 when a government-set price cap goes up.
Anne Bolger, a retired math teacher, happened across the warm hub during a walk one day and has come back every week since. She drops in to check emails, prep for math tutoring or do a jigsaw puzzle.
“It’s a day to appreciate the beauty of it.” she said.
The hub runs one afternoon a week in the smallest of the RSC’s three theaters. On Tuesday, the space held a mixture of theater staff, actors on the way to rehearsals and visitors looking to get warm. Organizers provide puzzles, games, toys for children, free tea, coffee and Wi-Fi – even a sewing table.
“The fact it is such an open space for creativity appeals to me.” said Bolger, 66. “There are meetings, people talking and working. It just makes me feel more alive and connected than sitting in my home.”
That’s just what organizers want to hear. They say warm hubs exist to ease loneliness as well as energy poverty.
“Warmth is not only in the building but also in your welcome. to Visit to,” said Nicola Salmon, who oversees the hub as the RSC’s creative place-making manager. “Everybody is welcome to chat to.”
Stratford, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of London, is a prosperous town that makes a good living from William Shakespeare, its most famous son. Even on a wintry weekday, tourists traipse though streets of half-timbered Tudor buildings to see the house where the Bard was born, visit the schoolroom where he studied and stand over his grave in the medieval Holy Trinity Church.
The RSC is one of Stratford’s main cultural attractions and major employers. Salmon says the warm hub is part of the company’s efforts to get closer to its surrounding community, a town that “It is commonly viewed as wealthy and well-off.” but contains “These areas are characterized by extreme deprivation.”
Like Britain’s food banks – now numbering an estimated 2,500 – warm hubs are a crisis measure showing signs of becoming permanent.
The Warwickshire Rural Community Council, a charity covering the county around Stratford, set up a mobile warm hub – a minibus-turned-pop-up outdoor cafe – in 2021 as pandemic restrictions plunged many rural residents into isolation.
A year ago, the charity ran five hubs across the county, with backing from Cadent, the private company that distributes much of Britain’s heating gas. As winter hit and energy bills soared, the number mushroomed to 90, providing everything from meals to repair workshops and slow-cooking courses meant to reduce gas use.
About 30 of the hubs will stay open this summer – with a view to becoming permanent – and the mobile hub will be on the road five days a week.
“Many people say that we shouldn’t be in such a situation.” said Jackie Holcroft, the charity’s warm hubs manager. “And we are. One of the best things about Warwickshire is its hundreds of thousands, if not millions of volunteer volunteers who are all joining together. to You can make a real difference.”
The RSC’s warm space will close at the end of March, but the company is already planning for its return next year.
“You’ll be missed like mad.” said Bolger, one of the regulars. “Although I doubt the fuel crisis will last forever, it is something I hope this area can remain open.”