“I LOVE baking, especially lemon drizzle cake.”

Gillian Carlin smiles as she slices her speciality cake and places it on a plate ready to serve to diners.

She is a dab hand at other mouthwatering creations too, including butterfly buns and jacket potato skins with cheese fillings.

“Before I came here I could cook a few meals but not half as many as now, and I have learned to bake so many things. I do the prepping as well, getting everything ready.”

Gillian is one of a number of people volunteering at SPLATS 2, the second cafe to be opened as part of a fundraising initiative from the local charity BCCS (Bradford Court Chaplaincy Service) Bradford Assist.

At its base in Bradford Magistrates’ Court, the friendly cafe with spectacular views across City Park, is a sister eaterie to SPLATS in Bradford Combined Court Centre, both providing much-needed refreshments for court users - defendants, witnesses, jurors, barristers, solicitors and visitors.

Raising funds for BCCS, which provides a free, confidential service supporting those attending court, the cafes operate as a social enterprise, offering training places to those who would otherwise find it difficult to obtain them. The purpose is reflected in its name, SPLATS, meaning Special People, Learning, Assessment, Training and Support.

For Gillian, having the chance to learn new skills, including food hygiene, and meet a range of people, has opened up a new world. “It is great - you get to meet so many nice people,” she says, while prepping salad in readiness for the day’s lunches. “I also love passing on my skills to others. As well as baking I also go on the till and use the card machine.”

Gillian has gone on to independent volunteering.

The cafes were set up by former magistrates Beryl Eakin and Mary Carroll after national cuts forced the closure of canteens at Bradford Crown Court and Bradford and Keighley Magistrates’ Court in 2015.

In 2017 BCCS, of which Mary is chair, put out a wanted list for a number of people to help them set up a service providing refreshments to court users. First on the list was a committed and enthusiastic person to run a cafe project as a social enterprise.

The grant-making Tudor Trust charitable organisation helped with a donation of £50,000, to set up the cafes and fund their four paid staff, two in each cafe. Initially, the enterprise was housed in the Bradford Combined Courts Centre before expanding to the magistrates’ court.

Local solicitors were so keen to see them back in business, they raised £2,400 to help BCCS buy some essential equipment.

Safter Salam, a partner at Lumb & Magill solicitors in Manor Row, Bradford, says: “Mary reached out to my practice and asked if we could help – I contacted a number of firms and in six days we raised £2,900. We are in the process of raising a further £1,000 for training and seating outside the cafe.”

He adds: “I dine here every day, it is wonderful and is very well used. The food is varied, wholesome, healthy and fresh. I have just enjoyed some of Gillian’s delicious biscuits.”

Eating at SPLATS for the first time, solicitor Adrian Pollard, of John Delaney &Co Solicitors, says: “There is definitely a need for a place like this for court professionals and other court users to have a break - it is ideal, I will definitely be coming again.”

Says Mary Carroll: “We decided to do this as there was a great need. It serves those who are in court for whatever reason, at the family court, or coroner’s court. If people are stressed or anxious it offers somewhere to go and get something to drink or eat. Beforehand they would have had to leave the building to get a snack and then go through security again to come back in.”

Adds the former education adviser: “We wanted to provide a service but felt it was important for it to be a social enterprise and work in partnership with other organisations.”

Those include the Home Farm Trust, WorkFit - part of the Down’s Syndrome Association - and, hopefully, Henshaws College in Harrogate.

“We are absolutely thrilled with the cafes - it is an absolute delight to see the people who come in shy, nervous and unsure of themselves, and see them blossom with confidence,” adds Mary.

One trainee, Ben Peel, has gone on to find a job. Says SPLATS 2 cafe supervisor Nicky Smith : “When he first came he had no confidence and did not talk much. Now he has an internship with a local retailer. He is thrilled. It is so rewarding that people come so far - it is an amazing team.”

She adds: “Another trainee, Ryan would not talk much when he came and has also grown in confidence. He has now been with us for a year and makes great chocolate cornflake buns.”

Gillian and Ben were recently thrilled to receive certificates in honour of their achievements.

“We make everything from toast in the morning to paninis, sandwiches, soup, light lunches and cakes. Most of this is home-baked,” says Nicky. “We are pleased to be able to support the Chaplaincy Service, which is invaluable to people who come to court and need comfort. It has been hard work getting here, but well worth it.”

Says cafe assistant Stephanie McMahon: “We get a lot of families coming in too and have a toy corner for children.”

The cafe teams are indebted to the president of BCCS, Professor the Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, and patron Baroness Eaton, whose efforts helped to secure the opening.

Former headteacher and former chair of the Bench Beryl Eakin, chair of the cafe project, says: “This was badly needed. The magistrates’ court houses the coroner’s court too and there was nowhere for bereaved families to go even for a cup of tea. Both cafes are very popular.”

She adds: “It is for a good cause and it is very rewarding to be involved. We are all delighted by how everything has turned out and how well the cafes are doing.”

l The trustees are keen to recruit more volunteers to work in the cafes to help to support the trainees. Anyone who is interested in helping or would like to donate to SPLATS can contact Ruth Smith on 01274 722422 (Tuesday to Friday) or email info@bradfordcourtchaplaincy.org.uk

l A fashion show to raise funds for BCCS ‘Assist’ will be hosted by Isaro Collections and held in the Richmond Building Atrium, the University of Bradford, on Saturday April 27, beginning at 5.30pm. For more details and admission prices visit isarocollections.com/fashionshow; email: events@isarocollections.com