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Local people making a difference

Felice and Maddalena Kharfi

Felice and Maddalena Kharfi, community cafe, Bermondsey

Felice Kharfi, 43, from Bermondsey, runs Deli Felice on Albion Street in Rotherhithe with his wife Maddalena. Not content with running a popular café they have a vision of creating a vibrant community on Albion Street. The café acts as a meeting point for local people and a place where local artists can exhibit their work for free.

"When I was made redundant from my job as a journalist several years ago Maddalena and I decided to open a café that could be used as a space to exhibit work by local artists.

"We also wanted people to appreciate Albion Street. It is a dead street. We want it to rise up.

"In the past people often didn't feel safe. Motorbikes tore up and down the street and people kicked footballs across the street onto the library wall - just opposite our café.

"One day I saw a group of kids chuck their bikes on the pavement, blocking the path of a woman with a buggy. She was clearly intimidated so I went out and spoke to them. I spoke to them in the right way - I explained that it's our street as well as their street and asked them not to spoil it for everyone. I never called the police or argued with them but by getting their respect these kids, who are now teenagers, often come in to the café with their friends or parents.

"People come in to the café to check us out. I talk to them to get them to open up, this way they come back rather than just having a coffee and leaving. Through word of mouth they bring their friends as well as speaking to people they've never spoken to before.

"We exhibit art for free for local artists. All the profits from any sales go to the artists. Maddalena is an artist too and she runs this side of things. As an ex-journalist I have some experience of promotion. We advertise on their behalf and help them to promote themselves.

"It's amazing how many customers turn out to be artists. Word of mouth definitely brings more people along. We've also had some older people exhibiting after taking part in Time and Talents, local community art classes.

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