Aubergine Café was founded by Selena Caemawr after an injury to their head left them thinking they would never work again. Despite working in many different roles throughout their working life, they struggled in certain areas, such as timesheets, a common autistic and ADHD trait. Their café is the product of their frustration with the lack of support for neurodivergent people in the workplace.
Aubergine café isn’t just a place to eat, it’s a vital safe space and cultural touchstone for many multiply marginalised autistic people in Cardiff and some even further afield; LGBTQ+ autistic people, disabled and chronically ill autistic people. They host a variety of community events, such as relaxed arts and crafts evenings, open mic nights for music and poetry and free workshops run by neurodivergent artists, providing a much-needed social space for autistic folk who are more likely to be socially isolated. The café encourages their visitors, including their autistic staff and volunteers, to make the space their own with their art and music, joy and creativity. “Some of them even call it a home away from home, which is really heartwarming to hear”, Selena tells us.
Aubergine Café is designed to keep noise and stress to a minimum with their extra quiet coffee machines, milk frothers and fridges. Selena said that by “removing common barriers like these, it is surprisingly simple to create an environment where autistic people can thrive and be unapologetically and authentically themselves.” The café employs and trains autistic and neurodivergent people who are less likely than any other demographic to be in employment. They offer a social hub for autistic people who may otherwise be socially isolated.
When speaking with Selena, they told us that “autistic people are systematically excluded from the job market”. By employing and training autistic people and paying them a living wage, Aubergine Café empowers them to survive and thrive in a system that “was not built for them”. With Aubergine, they gain skills, confidence and an invaluable support network.
To get to know more about Aubergine Café, check out their Instagram to stay up to date with their ongoings: @aubergine_cardiff