Saturday, 16 September 2017


Situated on Waterloo Road in Lowestoft, Richard Toombs’ café is a much-valued community and cultural drop-in.

The best place to stop near Lowestoft sea front.

I don’t care what some people may say, but Lowestoft is slowly changing for the better. Unlikely as it may seem to some residents and visitors, a mini renaissance is currently taking place around London Road South. There’s Desmonds, the coffee house and impressive pizzeria, that offers such delights as Curried Goat Night. Local character Desmond Baldry has livened up the pop culture-themed interior by having his image inserted into the vintage memorabilia on display, where he can be seen opposite entertainment luminaries from times gone by.

Elsewhere, there’s the Honey Bee Vintage shop, a vegan deli, The Beach Hut vintage furniture shop and, on Waterloo Road, The Coconut Loft. This establishment, run by Richard Toombs, in a way sums up the Lowestoft approach to the bohemian and the arts. First and foremost, The Coconut Loft has become something of a community hub, as people have been brought together by the delicious Italian coffee and choice menu, as well as by how attentive and friendly Richard’s engaging staff are.

The success of the café side of the business – and its deli – has enabled Richard to expand the Loft’s horizons, to the point where it now hosts exhibitions by local artists. It’s not just Suffolk landscapes and coastlines, either: if Richard likes the work of an artist who produces more conceptual and avant garde art – something that could become a local talking point, say – he’ll consider that too, and that’s to be applauded.

One of The Coconut Loft's galleries.
I only discovered The Coconut Loft two weeks ago. After a long, informative chat with Richard, he revealed that the establishment also holds a knitting group – not really me, I have to say – and, on Thursdays and Fridays, #Writers’ Corner. In search of like-minded creatives, I went along, met the effervescent Suzan Collins who runs the group and, before I knew it, I was a guest at the Meet the Authors event, part of the East Anglian Festival of Culture, which ran over 9 and 10 September. Not a bad result for a chance meeting in a café.

It’s very useful and encouraging, if you spend a lot of time on your own writing, to have somewhere to go during the day to be able to work alongside and chat with people of similar interests, the more so if it’s in a convivial environment where coffee and cake are on tap. #Writers’ Corner has been so friendly and inspiring that in the last fortnight I’ve stepped up my writing output, to the point where I’ve done three blog posts after a major slump when, for various reasons, I didn’t do much for nearly a year. Another nice thing about The Coconut Loft is that your books can be exhibited in the charmingly named ‘Book Nook’, one of the two beach huts set up as creative spaces in the café, this one in Ipswich town colours (no booing, please).

Groups and businesses like the #Writers’ Corner and the Loft are to be valued and supported, particularly in towns like Lowestoft, because they’re part of the cultural life blood of the community.

If you haven’t been in yet, pop in for a coffee and say ‘hi’ to Richard. It’ll be a pleasant eye opener.

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