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Walking along Fossgate, you might not initially notice Kiosk. It's tucked in among the various shop fronts, with no glaring signage or flashy lights. The mullioned windows are often misted up, so even if you do peek in, a certain enigmatic quality remains. But it's worth venturing in because, despite the fact that it may initially appear to be just another coffee shop, is anything but.
Kiosk was set up by Rebecca and Russel Carr, a York couple with a young son. I went to talk to Rebecca to find out more about Kiosk and why it offers more than you might expect. Its full name is Kiosk: Project Space. It's a rather mysterious epithet, but Kiosk is open to all events, and actively wants to host compelling events that may not have an obvious place to call home.
While it may not be a particularly large space, Kiosk began as a shop-cum-gallery space for Rebecca to show her work. She studied tailoring at the London College of Fashion and creates beautiful, garments using natural textiles and traditional techniques.
However, after the floods last December, it didn't seem wise to store all the textiles in such a potentially sodden spot. The back room used to be Rebecca's workshop, and after a bit of thought, the obvious decision was to branch out, invest in a snazzy espresso machine, and, with a bit of determination and ingenuity, transform that back room into a kitchen.
The decision to branch out into food made sense on a further level, as despite having always been keen on food, Russel hadn't worked in that environment before. "It was a way for him to engage creatively with the business, pursue his own interests and do something he loved too," smiled Rebecca. Now Kiosk run regular supper clubs, and their cafe menu thoughtfully mirrors the seasons.
This sense that everyone has a creative capacity - it's just a case of getting the right moment, situation and people to ignite it - is the strong backbone in Kiosk's ethos. After all, the enterprise isn't limited to their Fossgate premises. Kiosk is also an assortment of artists and makers, a local collective effectively, with collaborators working in fields encompassing architecture, performance art, jewellery, clothing and food.
York provides a good starting point from which to "constructively disrupt established modes of creative practice", as their mission statement puts it. Kiosk spins on a York axis, completely at one with the city yet also hoping to offer something more. As such, it has become a pleasing and well-earned epicentre of the York art scene. Kiosk has managed to garner a dedicated following and distinct niche. Similarly, Rebecca wistfully mentioned a future vision: "It's a shame the art college doesn't exist any more. In an ideal world this would be a much larger space, and I'd run courses. People could come and learn and make art."
The coffee and food is served in hand-made pottery, and this serves as a microcosm for their approach. Art needn't be something rarefied and disconnected from day to day life. You can use it, consider the thought and work that went into making it both aesthetic and practical. With a rotating range of thoughtfully curated ceramics, paintings, and textiles around you, Kiosk is a tranquil, intriguing space to while away an afternoon.
Quite apart from the fact that they have some of the best coffee going in York, it's heartening to know that there's a way to help sustain local arts that don't rely on government or local authority funding. It's an organisation which brings people together, and collaborations are a natural means for artists to access a layer of inspiration that could have otherwise lain dormant. Often it can be tricky knowing where to start: who else is interested, is it worth working with them? Kiosk offers that initial spark - a natural, simple means to join like-minded individuals together, where creativity and ideas brew and blossom in turn. If a little goes a long way, well, imagine what Kiosk would do in a bigger spot.