Yoga sessions, French lessons and a contemporary art exhibition are just some of the reasons making Bubbles Laundrette stand out from the crowd.
The Quarry Hill Road business has become a true cultural community hub with a difference over the past few years, earning it national, and even international headlines.
Owner Claire Orme said: “I just felt that we could make a laundrette a bit more fun, somewhere people of all ages and backgrounds could come in, get their washing done and get to meet other people.”
Claire, who runs Bubbles alongside her work as a reflexologist, has been organising an ever growing list of events at the laundrette with help from her husband Chris.
Their ambitious range of activities has included everything from blues gigs, VE day celebrations, to hosting specialist talks on dementia. The next project is a themed dining experience.
Launderette customers are also guaranteed a warm welcome, and, if they want, can put their feet up, read one of the many books on offer or tackle a jigsaw to make the usual mundane task of doing the washing into much less of a chore.
Claire added: “It’s the people side of the business that I really like. There’s a good atmosphere and you’ll get an 80-year-old chatting away to a youngster.
“We have quite a few commuters coming in to use our services, which is why we open at 8am so they can come in before taking the train. We are open till 8pm, so they can pick up their clothes on their return.”
Among those making full use of the venue is local artist Laura Porter, who is staging a 37 Degree Cycle exhibition at Bubbles.
The Middlesex University Fine Arts graduate held a private viewing event at Bubbles last month, with proceeds going towards Pepenbury, a Kent charity offering care and workshops for children and adults with learning difficulties.
Laura said: “I’ve mainly specialised in site-specific work, and I just thought it was an unusual place to have an exhibition, away from the ‘white cube room’ that everyone normally associates with modern art.
“There are elements of sculpture as part of the exhibition, and I’ve used wax to help mould clothes into the shapes of people, as well as chrome paint so that they look like the washing machines that are there. I haven’t seen too many grass roots arts events happen here in Tonbridge, but I think that is starting to change now with venues like this.”