Margate Creative Spaces: Nourishing the Community with Creativity…. and Pizza!

101 Social, Cliftonville

We recently visited Franca Pauli, director and curator of 101 Social in Cliftonville with Dario Colombo.

Franca’s background is in creative arts and visual communications.  She and partner Dario, a photographer, moved to Cliftonville in 2015.  Having raised their four children virtually off-grid in a self-sufficient rural community in Italy, they followed their two eldest sons to the UK.

When Franca discovered the disused shop in Northdown Road, which would become 101 Social, it had been sitting empty for 30 years.

A split-level, former hairdressing salon, the upstairs of 101 is a cross between a cosy living room, complete with floor cushions and sofas, and a boho café, with tables and chairs arranged in accordance with whatever event is taking place.  That evening was a film screening, so the window at the far end of the room was covered to make a backdrop for a large projection screen, the chairs arranged in rows, “film club” style.

A person seated in front of a blank white, screen with people lying down in front wrapped in blankets.
Soundbath evening upstairs, 101 Social

Downstairs has the feel of a traditional Italian family-run pizza restaurant, with square tables and sturdy chairs, a kitchen counter forming the focal point of the space, behind which Dario prepares food (chef’s hat being one of several interchangeable hats – he handles set up for 101’s events and all the production aspects of the project).

A white man wearing a blue hat with a red stripe, black top and blue and white striped apron, stirring a mixture in a white mixing bowl.
Dario in the kitchen at 101 Social

The couple had originally intended to turn the building into their workspace and studios, but Franca says that local residents and neighbouring shop owners began to change their view; almost every day somebody walked into the building and told them how great it would be for people living and working in the neighbourhood to have their own community space.  This resonated with Franca and Dario who grew up in northern Italy, where small communities survive by looking out for each other, and where making and sharing food is a common denominator in bringing people together, young and old.

Well known locally as an inter-generational and inter-cultural community hub, 101 offers a regular quiet co-working space; Film club; Exhibitions; Music; Meditation and lots of Community events.

Signage outside a shop
The entrance to 101

101 Social has evolved organically and in symbiosis with Cliftonville’s diverse communities.  Franca says that whenever a new idea lands, the community quickly rallies to make things happen and ideas are most often brought in by the community itself.  The 101 Soup Kitchen is one such example:  Franca and Dario didn’t know anything about soup kitchens, but as soon as the idea was pitched, friends and local people began to come forward with offers of help, advice and expertise.  Without even being asked, local shops started donating surplus food and as a result, 101 now feeds over 100 people every Sunday.

A white woman with brown hair serving food at an outside table
101 Social weekly soup kitchen.

Franca believes that adversity and life’s ups and downs have shaped 101’s evolution.

“We have always had to be creative to make things work and bring ideas to life. If everything had been easy, with plenty of money to spend, 101 Social simply would not exist in its current form”.

With the recent opening of The Salon Gallery, right next door at 101A, both venues complement one another as vibrant creative and community spaces.  The Gallery has attracted new artists to the street, bringing fresh energy to the local area, whilst regulars of 101 Social are now engaging more with Margate’s growing creative scene.

All 101 events are run by participant donation.  101 Social is a registered CIC. Open to all.

If you have an idea for an event or exhibition at 101, please contact [email protected]

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