At the top of Perranporth, a community hub is bringing people together through food that prides itself on being affordable and flavourful. As One, headed by Leon Holland, is the community interest project that has become an exciting addition to the Perranporth community, and we’re here to find out how…

It took sixteen months for Leon Holland to renovate the once dilapidated state of what is now the As One café. The material used is resourced, with a focus on recycled and reused product. From there began the next phase of his plan, turning the new café into a central hub for food, learning and social unity. Set on the edge of the coast just outside of Perranporth, with plenty of parking and lashings of fresh, homemade food, this is a community interest project with a difference.

Officially, the café opened its doors in the spring of 2019 and has since been feeding the enthusiastic people of Perranporth with wholesome, delicious and affordable food and to Leon, the driving force behind As One, it’s just the start,

“For me, it’s really important that everyone should be able to go out and have something to eat. It’s important for kids and young people and families to have that social growth. Social unity will only happen if people can access similar places. In terms of what we do during the week and the menu, it’s so that if you’re on a low income or in a discounted situation you can still come out and have a delicious meal cooked by professionals.”

On Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, the café serves delicious food freshly cooked, to the hungry people of Perranporth and beyond. Then, there’s the games nights, the educational workshops and the sessions with local schools and groups that aim to educate young people and provide them a safe, relaxing space in which they can have fun and socialise.

Leon Holland with Chef Ann Clara

With a degree in social science and a PGCE, Leon has spent the last decade around the health and social care industry. Yet as time passed, Leon started looking past the education system into the wider aspects of young people’s development and character, which soon became a major drive in his career. A fundamental part of As One is to offer a safe, welcoming environment that encourages togetherness, compassion, and kindness. Rather than focusing on an academic path, Leon’s aim is to help young people improve their mental health whilst offering creative and alternative ways to support young people’s learning whilst promoting a sense of community and wellbeing. In many ways, it’s about understanding the negative effects modern day life can have and reconnecting with what’s real and what’s around you.

“Having a great education doesn’t necessarily mean when you come up against challenges in life, you’re going to be able to overcome them. A major issue in mental health at the moment is people’s inability to maintain expectations. It’s difficult to have an image that you have created for yourself because you’ve felt a need to match what is going on in the world. It’s hard to fulfil that image in a reality where so much is fabricated.”

“There’s a lot of emotionally induced content in the media at the moment. It’s hard when you’re young and you haven’t had any experience to tell you what is what, what is real and what isn’t.”

Behind the delicious food, the core of As One helping people understand and navigate these issues and from having a meal out in the company of friends, family and like-minded people, to tech-free games nights, pop up events and social groups. On weekends, pop up chefs take over the As One café and with meals at just £5 they’re a hit with local families. One of Leon’s volunteer pop up chefs is Annclara,

“The community needs to come together for places like this to work. Cornwall can be a hard place in winter, to have a place like this for people to come in is great, there’s lots of things to do, the food is a good price and there is a professional, trained group of people.”

Through the power of food, Leon and his team of qualified volunteers are slowly bringing the Perranporth and wider community together and they have even bigger plans for the future,

“Eventually we’d like to have a community allotment in the front, where all the green grass is, so we can grow produce. We want to put a wildlife trail and activity run in around the back. The café is an integral part of what we do in terms of using food to bring these communities together, but fundamentally we want to start running education programmes and school sessions. We want to become a central hub for local schools and community groups that want to cook food and share it out.

“The idea is for people to also see this space as somewhere they can hold pop up events themselves, especially young people. They can come and hold events of their own.”

From delicious, freshly made cakes such as chocolate and banana and lemon drizzle alongside homemade pies and rich curries packed with vegetables, to juicy wraps (jerk chicken is a favourite) and winter-warming soups with dumplings, if anything As One is simply a place where you can get some mouth-wateringly great food, at a great price. There’s even takeaway options too if you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a boardgame or two.

Of course, Leon’s goals are much bigger than the great food, ultimately, he’s someone with a drive to help improve his local community and to offer support to younger people who are looking for somewhere safe, fun and welcoming. The hub has already received recognition for its efforts and hopefully for Leon 2020 will bring more exciting developments for this foodie hilltop hideaway,

“At the end of the day you want to find something to do that you love so that when you go there, you’re putting in everything that you’ve got because it’s important to you. For me this is it.”

Follow the As One Café on Facebook and visit them at Cligga Industrial Estate on St George’s Hill, Perranporth.