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The Treehouse Board Game Cafe: A Caring Community

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The Treehouse Board Game Cafe is a warm and welcoming haven, a place where you can while away the hours playing games and spending time with friends and family. We chatted to Treehouse founder Ruth to find out more about how they've gone the extra mile to create a really inclusive space.

The Treehouse is renowned for its friendly, fun atmosphere and ethos of inclusiveness for all. Can you tell us a bit about what you have on offer to make everyone feel at home there?

That's wonderful to hear! We've thought a lot about this because we're aware that there are some barriers to overcome when it comes to board gaming - trying something new in front of other people, getting to grips with rule books, and maybe a certain image problem, to name a few.

We feel our role at The Treehouse is to remove as many of these as possible. We're lucky to have a team who all share a huge enthusiasm for games and a desire to help people have fun, and it's generally agreed the most satisfying part of the job is finding the perfect game for a group who come in looking unsure and seeing them get immersed in it.

We have an ever-growing library of over 500 games and we've done our best to make sure this includes options for every taste, age group and experience level. We've put together a games taster 'menu' to help get people started and now have a kids' version too with suggestions by age group.

We understand that you host a monthly night in collaboration with the Burton Street Foundation. What can people look forward to here?

Burton On Board was the brainchild of Jack from the Burton Street Foundation and we're really happy to be involved with it. The night is a relaxed, welcoming social on the third Wednesday of each month from 6pm for people with learning disabilities and those who care for them.

We've worked with Burton Street to help identify a selection of games which work well for this audience, and some of the awesome Burton Street staff attend each time to help people get started with the games and generally provide a warm welcome. On the night we offer a free cover charge for carers and a half-price cover for clients.

There is an encouraging trend towards autism awareness happening across Sheffield at the moment. Would you consider The Treehouse to be autism friendly, and if so, in what way?

We've been delighted that The Treehouse has proved a popular destination for people with autism and I think there are a few reasons for this. Firstly, board gaming is an ideal activity for those who prefer their social activities to be more structured, providing a clear set of rules and a common focus to make group situations a little less complex. Also, we've tried to ensure that the cafe itself is a relaxing environment, by leaving plenty of room between tables to stop it feeling over-crowded and adding sound dampening in the front rooms to keep the noise level down and create a calmer atmosphere. Last but not least, being somewhere full of friendly people who share a common interest creates a great environment for breaking down social barriers for everyone.

Finally, the grapevine has it that you have made a visit to your Boardgaming World of Wonder (TM) even more affordable for those caring for people with disabilities...

Yes! We're now officially one of the venues supporting the Sheffield Carer Card, which has recently been set up by the Sheffield Carers Centre. We offer cardholders a half-price cover charge whenever they visit. In addition to this, all carers visiting with their clients both get a half-price cover charge as standard.

Interview by Felicity Jackson

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