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The Medway Broadside Issue Three Autumn 2011

© Phil Dillon Local heroes - The Deaf Cat Café

Anyone who’s ever had a cat settle onto his or her lap knows that if they want the cat to stay, there must be still- ness. In other words, cats don’t like to be disturbed. And writ-

ers don’t either. One cat observer, Robert A. Sloan, claims that it’s the tendency to sit still for such a long time that connects writers to cats. Artists and other creative types, plus librarians, academ-

ics, etc. (feel free to chime in with your group of cat lovers) adore felines as well, but writers, such as Charles Dickens, seem to hold the candle for choosing feline companion- ship over that of humans. Cats, it’s often said, don’t require much, especially in the

way of conversation. And Dickens’ Deaf Cat, who sat on his desk as a silent muse, was no exception. Cats often make creatives feel at home, providing com-

pany without actually requiring any effort. Cats embody aspects of the creative process as well, with their tempera- mental nature, high degree of independence, aesthetic appeal and caprice. So it’s only fitting that Dickens’ cat provide the mascot

for what’s now a Rochester institution. The Deaf Cat, one of Medway’s artistic hubs, carries on the tradition of a bit of company in the midst of creation. In October of 2009, Laura Brown and Kevan Middleton

founded the Deaf Cat. Currently the Deaf Cat covers a lot of territory, with a packed schedule of exhibitions and per- formances.

Artistic space Their studio spaces at 10 High Street are also part of their

intentional vision to provide space for artistic creation in Medway. Kevan brings twenty-five years of Art and Design experi-

ence (four years of art college, fifteen as Advertising Art Director, and six in Editorial Design), and Laura has re- cently completed her BA in Applied Arts at the esteemed UCA. The business partners were also motivated to help create

art-related opportunities in Medway and to work for them- selves. The Deaf Cat is primarily a coffee bar, which serves as a

hangout for creatives as well as a source of funding for the studio and gallery spaces. Kevan finds that combining a creative perspective with his business sensibility has helped “hugely”. He’s been particularly inspired by other cafés attached to

galleries such as The Tate and Hayward. In general, his inspiration comes from a range of sources, including “architecture, starlings, posters, nature, people, and galax- ies”. Recently the Deaf Cat won a battle with the Medway

Council to stay in business despite a dispute about licenc- es. Kevan stated that such ordeals comprise the worst as- pect of the job, while the best parts are “helping the cus- tomers, the creatives and the staff to have ideas”. Some of his favourite moments and events have been the

opening of the café, every new exhibit, the recent Don Gal- lardo gig, and “every time someone leaves and pays us a compliment”. It’s no secret that independent businesses have suffered

in recent years with the recession, but Kevan states that honesty, being open to new ideas, and hard work with no excuses are some of the qualities that have kept the café’s doors open. In the near future, Deaf Cat customers can look forward

to some Christmassy drinks and cakes, and an exhibit of postcards around the New Year for the Restore Rochester Campaign, where anyone can enter work to be sold for charity. The next time you’re wandering past 83 Rochester High

Street, stop in and pay homage to Dickens’ cat by curling up on one of the comfy couches with a cuppa and watch- ing Medway go by. You don’t have to sit perfectly still, but staying stationary for a bit is always a good way to hatch an idea.

Tara Moyle

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