Easter 2015 I took on the challenge of designing and running a pop up cafe in one of the historic buildings in Hill End. Formerly a billiards hall, a girls boarding school, a boxing ring, a museum – this grand old dame of a building is being renovated by National Parks and Wildlife to be leased as a restaurant and Bed and Breakfast. In the meantime it was up for grabs and for now it became Hillendia...
The ground floor is seductively beautiful: large, open plan, kind of 19th century industrial, further enhanced by National Parks exposing the bricks on one long wall. Bricks that had been made in Hill End many years ago, now speckled with paint, giving a strong character and texture to the room.
During the Gold Rush Hill End had a population of around 8000, now it’s under 200. But at Easter the crowds come and the numbers swell again into the thousands- the pop up would cater for them.
Starting to work on the project I realised the only way it could happen was to keep things local. The coffee ended up coming from Bathurst – Fish River Roasters, the toasted sandwiches from the Hill End General Store, and the pies and delicious sweet treats from the Hill End Estate bakers, who are based in the village.
There was an ease to this and a feeling of community spirit. Luke Sciberras loaned a painting, Bill Moseley from the Hill End Press a tin type photograph, while his wife Genevieve helped me behind the counter. La Paloma pottery provided plates for the cakes. The furniture came mostly from the National Parks and Wildlife archive shed- collected from the old buildings and businesses. This was a space grown out of a love of Hill End, its art and its history.
I liked the experience of working in the country. More face to face conversations, less emails pinging around in an uncertain cyber space. Things got done quicker. Everyone seemed to have a dog.
The actual running of the cafe was like diving into the deep end of the pool – it was hard to estimate the rhythms and flow of the business…
The old saying of never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes came to mind. These last few weeks I have been much more patient and understanding in cafes. It’s a tough game.
In the end the crowds never quite came – the weather was against us. But the good will and generous feed back from the customers and people in the village warmed the space. Hillendia was there, for a moment, and now it’s gone. And there was something beautiful about it.