A few weeks ago, before the kids finished school for the summer break I had a few spare hours to myself one morning. It just so happened that I found myself in Newtownards while waiting on my husband who had an appointment in the town.
Not in the mood for shopping, I decided that I’d treat myself to a nice coffee somewhere. I was not familiar with what’s on offer in Newtownards so I strolled up and down the town looking for a nice, inviting café. The morning was dismal and I just wanted to find somewhere warm and cosy where I could kick back for an hour with my pen and paper and relax a little.
So I was delighted when I spotted Haptik on the other side of the road. There were 3 ladies standing just outside chatting and I asked them if it was suitable to go into just for a coffee. They assured me it was and told me I wouldn’t be disappointed which I took as a good sign.
As soon as I walked in I could feel that the atmosphere was friendly. I was warmly greeted and after I placed my order I was told to take a seat and that my latte and banana loaf (couldn’t resist!) would be brought over to me.
Thankfully I had picked a fairly quiet time to go in so I had a choice of tables and picked a seat that allowed me to look out onto the street and watch the world go by – perfect!
As I took in my surroundings I noted how stylish and clean Haptik was and I was curious about the name and the art work adorning the walls. There was more to this place than just your run of the mill coffee shop. And being the nosy person that I am I decided there and then that I would find out more.
After enjoying my coffee and banana loaf (Yum!) I thanked the staff, told them how much I liked the place and asked a little bit about the set-up. Johnny, who I found out later was one of the owners, took the time to tell me how he and his wife, Rachel, had set-up Haptik (which incidentally means: Haptic/ haptik: adjective: relates to the sensory experience of touch and contact; the unconscious perception and manipulation of objects using the sense of touch) after returning from Australia and about their vision for the place to become a venue that supports Artists. I told him that I’d love to blog about Haptik and asked if I could get in touch later to find out more. He agreed, and so that’s what I did!
The lovely Rachel replied to my request for more information about the Haptik venture she shares with husband Johnny. The Newtownards couple spent 14 exciting months travelling, living and working in Australia and it was here that their passion for all things coffee and Art-related was born.
“Our love for everything Aussie developed. This combined with the impressive Art scene, where Art is embraced and encouraged at every level. We saw something that we wanted to bring back to Northern Ireland – inclusiveness.”
It was during their time in Australia that they had what they describe as their ‘light-bulb’ moment – a passion to bring back a taste of the Australian love for great coffee and combine that with their enthusiasm for supporting and showcasing artists at varying stages in their career. Rachel says that the ‘what if?’ light-bulb moment which they experienced while in Australia sparked something in them which has continued to grow and shine brighter with each new step on their journey. And, I would add that their zeal to excel in their new business adventure has helped in creating the down to earth, friendly ambience in Haptik, which is so evident from the moment you walk through the door. I certainly felt like I had come across a little haven of peace on a drizzly, grey morning.
Rachel and Johnny say that they are passionate about coffee, art, food and people and it was those 4 things which led them to create Haptik – A Melbourne-inspired coffee shop with a contemporary Art Space upstairs.
The upstairs is a not-for-profit space which was funded through a Kickstarter Crowdfund and the vision is that by providing a contemporary platform for Artists to work and showcase their work that Art will be repositioned as an integral part of society.
The Art Space on the first floor has an Artist in Residence/ Gallery room which will allow people to connect with the Artist, a workshop space as well as a shared studio/ desk space which Artists can rent for £5.00 per day. The entire vision supports Artists, whether they are just starting out and are looking for a place to work and engage with other Artists right through to the point of exhibiting work. The aim is to establish an inclusive place for the public to meet alongside painters, printers, performers, photographers and multi–media Artists.
I am not an artist, but as a creative person, I appreciate what Johnny and Rachel are building at Haptik and I love the idea of Haptik being a place where Artists can find a space to work and meet with other people on a similar journey to themselves. But I personally believe, having experienced Haptik first-hand and having talked to the owners, that Haptik is more than just a venue, it is a vision which I can see over-spilling into the wider area and impacting so many people.
Haptik is about community and that is something which I believe all people crave on some level – we all have a desire to find that sense of belonging. I believe the Haptik venue will become a meeting point, a hub, a place to join with others and feel inspired and encouraged, the Art Space will give opportunity to those who have maybe struggled to find a place to work, and the coffee shop will draw people in and engage them with Art that they might never have come across otherwise.
I am so glad that I had those few spare hours to stroll around Newtownards, because I stumbled across a little gem when I wandered into Haptik on that dreary morning in June. I really look forward to watching them grow and branch out into the community where they have set themselves.
If you ever find yourself in Newtownards with an hour to spare, pop in for a coffee (and a treat!) and enjoy the friendly welcome and the beautiful interior of the Haptik coffee shop. Or if you are an Artist why not find out upcoming events by following Haptik on Twitter at @wearehaptik or by visiting their Facebook page. Johnny and Rachel will be more than eager to answer any questions.
Artists interested in workspace, exhibition or meeting space should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
* I was under no obligation to write this blog post about Haptik. I offered to write it because I was inspired by their vision and I feel that finding Haptik one dreary morning was indeed a silver lining moment for me and fitted in well with the vision and values of the Every Treasure blog.*