The timber embrace of the Ship of Adventures is one of Dalston’s most unlikely and endearing experiences. This is the ship-shaped shop and café of the brilliant literacy charity Hackney Pirates, an imaginative programme which offers one-to-one lessons for children. Volunteers – who receive a three-hour training session – read with kids and help with publishing projects; goals are to promote literacy, confidence and perseverance.
The Hackney Pirates work in partnership with Compass Coffee, who make all the food and drink in-ship. Profits from the shop and cafe support the Pirates’ educational workshops. Pop in for sandwiches made with sourdough baked in Hackney, salads with locally grown leaves, smoothies, cakes and coffee. In the shop you can browse Hackney guides and audio projects created by local children, and buy jewellery handmade by pirate volunteers, greetings cards, ethical gifts and kids’ books.
As well as being a worthwhile stop, it’s also a piratical visual feast, with a hidden passageway, cutlasses round every corner and a whole boat hanging from the ceiling. Below decks, steps painted with favourite kids’ book jackets lead down to the blue-painted Deep section, where volunteers sit and read with kids and help produce projects such as their Hackney Guide.
Out back is a yard, which Eat Hackney is greening up and painting with the help of friends, Freecycle and kind plant donations from the De Beauvoir Gardeners, St Mary’s Secret Garden, the Geffrye Museum and the Old Fire Station. Paint is from the brilliant Forest Recycling Project (free paint for community projects in Hackney!), and we’ve got timber to build planters from the Freeusable project at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
You can support the Hackney Pirates by volunteering with the kids or working in the café, or just step on board the Ship, browse the ethical gifts and have lunch. Thanks to Andrew in the café for four great recipes: the Los Serrano salad, matcha biscuits, granola and the Jeremy Flaxman smoothie. And landlubbers – if you have a plant to spare for the pirate garden it would be very welcome. We’re collecting ferns, climbers, succulents and exotic flowering stuff…