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The Empire Cafe

The Briggait, Merchant City, Glasgow


Completed 2014


Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme


Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee Glasgow Life Creative Scotland The National Lottery The British Council Edinburgh International Book Festival 14-18 NOW RCHAMS


2015 Scottish Event Awards
Best Cultural Event

2015 Scottish Design Awards
Exhibition / Point of Sale - Award

2015 Glenfiddich Spirit of Scotland Awards

The Empire Café - An exploration of Scotland’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade through coffee, sugar, tea, cotton, music, visual art, academic lectures, poetry, debate, workshops, historical walks, film and literature. The café was based in the Briggait (home of the Merchant’s Steeple) in Glasgow’s Merchant City and ran from 24th July - 1st August 2014, during Glasgow's hosting of the Commonwealth Games.

Contributors to the programme included poets Jackie Kay, Millicent Graham, Alan Riach and Fred D’Aguiar; authors Andrea Stuart, James Robertson and Chris Dolan, internationally acclaimed artist Graham Fagan, Hip Hop bandStanley Odd, The Big Big Sing and Dr Richard Benjamin of the Liverpool Slavery Museum, plus many more.

The Empire Café commissioned poems from eminent Scottish and Caribbean poets on Scotland and the North Atlantic slave trade which have been published in a print anthology 'Yonder Awa' which was available free of charge when the cafe was open. Poets contributing to the anthology included Kei Miller, John Burnside, Vicki Fever,Dorothea Smartt, Aonghas MacNeacail and others.

The Empire Café served dishes developed through a series of experimental origin outreach sessions using some of the empire’s most familiar products and ingredients as inspiration. Café operator McCune Smith, Bakery 47 andDear Green Coffee all joined this exploration.

The Empire Cafe was founded by co-directors Jude Barber of Collective Architecture and author Louise Welsh. ‘Merchant City Voices’, their collaborative series of sounds works exploring Glasgow’s relationship with the North Atlantic slave trade won a 2013 Scottish Design Award. These can be listened to and viewed by clicking on link below -

The Empire Café is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, a partnership between the Glasgow 2014 Organising Committee, Glasgow Life, and Creative Scotland through National Lottery funding. The Empire Cafe is also supported by The British Council. 'Letter to an Unknown Soldier' and artist Graham Fagen’s new work within The Empire Cafe have been commissioned by 14-18 NOW. The 'Sight Lines' documentary by Genevieve Bicknell has been commissioned by RCHAMS as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme.

For more information please go to The Empire Cafe website page by clicking on link below -

Some of the photographs on our website were taken by photographer Chris Leslie.

Website by Graphical House

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Company Registered in Scotland No. SC240055