WHEN THE GUARDIAN cooked up a plan to defray its near £1-million-a-week losses by opening a coffee shop, it did so with a publicity campaign that scored not just in England but around the world.
Media everywhere were intrigued by the idea of a big organisation’s seeking financial salvation from a hill of beans.
The newspaper’s first press release, mind, was written in a style that comes of too many late-night latte.
“The doors of #guardiancoffee, a caffeine-infused pop-up destination in the heart of East London’s creative technology community at Tech City UK,” it wittered excitedly, “…bring the Guardian’s groundbreaking open journalism approach to life through direct, real-time engagement with the people who are shaping the future of technology in London.”
How odd, then, that when it closed (picture, above), the paper’s publicity machine was as silent as #guardiancoffee’s once-noisy espresso-maker had become.
If the promise of making Guardian journalists “more accessible, more open and more deeply embedded in one of the key communities” had not been met (why would hacks trek from the newspaper’s King’s Cross HQ for a flat white?) several shopkeepers in the Boxpark, where the café was installed, were sorry to see it go.
They told Loving Dalston that the coffee, whisked daily from the nearby Nude Espresso – by bicycle, natch – was excellent, as was service in the café, which occupied three shop spaces in a prime position.
Journalists were not so kind. Vice magazine said the Guardian press release, which included a Guardianista called Jemima Kiss speaking of news and coffee houses as “a rich blend” (yes, really), looked like “a rather unimaginative internet parody”. Vice’s reviewer wrote off the atmosphere as “sterile and deathly”.
“Only the Guardian,” commented Fawkes, “could open a coffee-shop in the digital heart of Tech-City with no wifi.”
The blogger will not be surprised to learn that the café that claimed to be so tech-hot still has a twitter account, @Guardian_Coffee. And makes no mention of the closure.
In response, Guardian News and Media told Loving Dalston: “#guardiancoffee has been a fantastic example of The Guardian bringing its groundbreaking open journalism to life.
“Over the past 18 months it has provided not only great coffee but also a place in the heart of East London’s technology hub where readers could explore coverage, share ideas and engage directly with our brand and journalists.
“In keeping with Boxpark’s pop-up ethos it was always intended as a temporary, experimental space and we are extremely pleased with what we have achieved.
“#guardiancoffee has now closed its doors but we continue to look for new opportunities to bring our readers closer to our journalism.”
Businessman Dan Beaumont will open a branch of his Kingsland High Street pizza bar, Voodoo Ray’s, in the space. Attendance by media types will be welcome but not essential to the success of the venture.
Hamish Scott 040415
* Voodoo Ray’s no 2 will be at Boxpark, units 1-3, Bethnal Green Road, Shoreditch E1 6GY, near Shoreditch station.
* Backstory: The birth of Boxpark
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.