Speak Street cafe celebrates 3 years of travelling around Islington teaching people English

PUBLISHED: 10:37 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:37 14 December 2017

Speak Street, the travelling Islington language cafe. Picture: Carlos Torres

Speak Street, the travelling Islington language cafe. Picture: Carlos Torres

Carlos Torres (c)2014 All rights reserved

A travelling language cafe is celebrating three years of making a difference in Islington.

Speak Street, the travelling Islington language cafe. Picture: Speak StreetSpeak Street, the travelling Islington language cafe. Picture: Speak Street

Speak Street is a pop-up cafe that offers free English classes to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants.

It inhabits different venues across the borough, and has reached 1,000 people – using 300 volunteers – since it launched in 2014.

Speak Street is the creation of Joanna Bevan, who is holding a three-year anniversary party at Cross Street Baptist Church on Tuesday afternoon.

Joanna, 32, who has lived in Archway for four years, said: “I wanted to do something positive in the face of negativity towards immigration. We have got a very diverse community in Islington and I think that’s a good thing, because good things come from it.

“I didn’t think, when I started this, that it’d grow to be so big – and it’s still growing all the time. We have reached so many people, and so many people are on our side volunteering. I’m looking forward to our three-year anniversary to take stock of things.”

Speak Street has “almost” become Joanna’s full-time occupation. Typically, she holds three to four sessions, for 25 people, every week.

“The only rule is that it has to be fun and social,” Joanna says. As well as language classes, there are also museum and gallery visits.

Joanna, having lived abroad earlier in her life, said she appreciates the value of language skills in a foreign country. She added: “I’m most proud of the relationship we have helped develop between people wanting to learn and people wanting to share their skills. That wouldn’t have happened without Speak Street. It’s created a community vibe.”

She has joined Lloyds Bank’s social entrepreneur programme, for social businesses. As well as a £10,000 grant, Joanna will get help on how to expand Speak Street.

“At this point in time,” she said, “I’m wanting to scale up and offer more sessions. I already deliver a lot, but can’t be in two places at once. I want to offer more sessions in Islington and beyond.”

Speak Street’s three-year party is at Cross Street Baptist Church, N1 2BG, between 10.30am and 1pm on Tuesday. For more information about Speak Street or to volunteer, email

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