The Bike Shed, a place for everyone in Inverness

19 July 2023

Located in Merkinch, Inverness, The Bike Shed provides the local crowd with a safe and friendly environment to gather, have a chat and be themselves.

The Bike Shed owes its name to the bikes used to decorate the interior and exterior of the café. Bikes, wood, art and cheerful quotes create a friendly and welcoming environment for the local people to gather. Dave Saunders, a Methodist pioneer in Inverness for nearly 12 years and a woodworker, was the instigator of the Bike Shed: “There wasn't a local, affordable coffee shop in the area where people could meet.”

the-bike-shed-2The Bike Shed is now a successful non-commercial venue with the support of the Methodist Church and the volunteers who help to run it.

The Bike Shed is a place where people can express themselves and have their voices heard without judgment. “The important thing about this space is about holding a space open, not manufacturing a space, not manufacturing an environment. It's not about taking God somewhere, but revealing where God is already at,” explains Dave. They have weekly drop-in sessions when locals can meet and have a coffee together, knitting groups, board games sessions, art exhibits and the Open Mic Fridays.

The Friday events started during the pandemic when people wanted to get together in a safe way. The rules forbade singing but not spoken words – that is how they started doing poetry nights, with masks, the evenings have now evolved to incorporate music. People are now coming from a wide variety of backgrounds to share their work in an accepting and inclusive venue. “We’ve built a great culture over the years about love and accepting one another. They all know each other well by now and they will welcome any newcomers with the space and love they deserve,” says Dave.

The space is for everyone, Christians or not. “What I always find amazing about this place is it's not overtly Christian, and yet your values, your ethos permeates and communicates itself,” adds Revd Andy Bryer, the Superintendent Minister of the Inverness Circuit. Contradictory opinions are spoken and accepted by the crowd. It is a self-regulating community that does not need the minister or the leadership team to intervene.

Open Mic Fridays are a time of art and creativity but also offer moments of grace. “Some time ago, I sat next to an atheist. I explained a bizarre event that happened and said God was in the room. His wife then said ‘It could be one of two things: either he was telling you what he thinks you want to hear, or God was in the room. And we all know something weird is happening here,” remembers Dave.