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The Big Welcome Cafe

A coffee table book has been published by a new Swadlincote-based charity to showcase the creativeness of adults on the Autism spectrum.

The Big Welcome Cafe, launched by the Swadlincote Asperger's Society, is the product of a weekly community project of the same name that has been running at People Express in Swadlincote for the past year. The book is made up of photography, art, creative writing and candid interviews with the twenty contributors, and the three founders Graham Rodgers, Hollie Burke, and Katie Atkinson, all of whom have autism. Mr Rodgers, 31, hopes the book will raise awareness about the fact that people with autism can be creative. 

"We want to raise awareness about vulnerable adults and challenge the stigma surrounding autism. The book includes interviews with some interesting people who are telling their story for the first time."

Hollie Burke, 28, Secretary of the group, struggled to get her diagnosis last year because a psychologist said she was too creative to have Autism.

"At the end of all the tests she said, ‘How can you have autism when you have so much imagination?’ Some doctors can see things a bit black and white, but we can be creative too. There are not a lot of books about adults with autism and they are filled with technical terms. But this book is our stories told from the heart and about how we feel."

The SAS secured £9,600 in funding last year from The Big Lottery Fund to run the community project, which included lessons by photographers, film makers, artists, writers and playwrights. The society worked closely with Kalila Storey, arts engagement coordinator at People Express, on the scheme. The group has since secured over £1,000 from Sports Relief to continue the cafe, but the book will be used to raise awareness and to raise money for the group itself between funding.  

The book costs £5 each, and is available by visiting People Express, in West Street, Swadlincote. Anybody interested in selling or stocking the book on the group’s behalf can enquire at

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