Most daytime visitors to tea@Hart just want decent pot of tea, some fairtrade coffee, and a freshly made sandwich, scone, or treat.
But it doesn’t take long before they realise there’s something a little different about us.
The four large shelves full of games, the few small games on the tables, or the large library over over 250 games upstairs, usually give it away.
So what’s this gaming thing about?
Playing board and card games. But not like Monopoly (although we do have Monopoly). We have games that take 5 minutes to learn and 10 minutes to play, through to an hour to read the rules and 8 hours to play (Civilization, we’re looking at you!) – but they’re all even more interesting than rolling dice and moving around a board. They ask you to make decisions, to be strategic, to gather resources or take over cities or defeat zombies. Some ask you to work together to defeat a common enemy, some ask you to compete with each, and some ask you to betray each other.
And some of these games can be a bit expensive, so rather than buy one and put it on the shelf, you can use ours from our library. We can even help you learn how to play – especially on a Saturday evening.
What happens when you come to play games?
During the day you don’t have to do anything special – all customers are able to use our library so, so grab a drink and cake and pick a game. We have a special selection downstairs near the till that we think are relatively easy to learn. Just pick on off the shelf and give it a go – think of it like picking up a complementary newspaper to read.
On an evening the emphasis move towards playing games. There’s a £1 entry fee that we spend on updating our library, but you also get a reduced-price menu.
Not every game’s a winner! If you pick one up and don’t think you’ll enjoy it, swap for another one.
Some evenings we have special events on – these are usually run upstairs, leaving plenty of place downstairs for playing games.
Why does Hartlepool need a place to play games?
There’s been a big reduction in public services we provide a place you can meet people, develop skills, and generally have a good time with others. Most people who come and play just do it as a hobby – as a form of entertainment – but to some it has proven a valuable lifeline, a safe space, and a place to grow.
So important is this we’re going to convert to become a ‘Community Interest Company’ before 2018 and tea@Hart will become not-for-profit.
When we make a surplus what do we do with it? We reinvest it into the community – in particular, we begin running gaming events for the people who benefit most from playing together.