Alternative meeting places

Need some inspiration to find a meeting venue? Why not try your local supermarket cafe!


Guiding looks different in every unit, from the days they meet, to where they meet. Our development workers Emily and Reann have come across so many great examples of venues that aren’t your typical school, church hall or community centre. If you are struggling to find a place to meet, perhaps because of cost, size or accessibility, check out our second blog in this series hearing from Scottish unit leaders about the alternative places they meet and the reasons why. 


Eileen and Shona run 4th Machar Rainbows and 33rd Aberdeen Brownies and Guides

4th Machar Rainbows, 33rd Aberdeen Brownies and 33rd Aberdeen Guides are in the same little group. Our units are based in the centre of Aberdeen and a lot of our parents don’t have access to cars so rely on public transport or walking. When our church was sold, we really struggled to find a suitable, and not ridiculously expensive, meeting place. Next stop was Aberdeen College, a drama studio and 2 breakout rooms for 3 units. That was a nightmare as the breakout rooms were always full of props so we often met in the corridor, or were outside, and it was expensive. 

We then heard that we could use a local community centre every second week, but we decided we would prefer a weekly meeting.  So the alternative week we did our meeting outside, however in the winter this was an issue, so we had a look at other options. ASDA and Dunelm are in a retail park about 10 minutes walk from the community centre so we contacted both to see if we could use their cafes on the alternative weeks.  

Both ASDA and Dunelm came back saying yes and we have been there for about 2 years. Initially Rainbows met in Asda and Brownies and Guides shared Dunelm but our unit numbers changed, so we decided that Rainbows and Brownies were a better pairing.  

The Dunelm where we meet are heavily involved in a lot of community projects so we approached them to see if they could help us. They offered to give us their cafe space for free – win win!  



The positives are endless, we get free accommodation, which is warm and has decent toilet facilities, it’s very accessible and it’s clean and tidy. We also use their bins and recycling facilities. We can use the shop to our benefit, we get the girls to go round finding costings for designing rooms. They use the material for ideas for tiles or patterns for the UMAs etc. The manager is great and very accommodating. He doesn’t even mind if we leave small bits of glitter on the floor! 

The challenges of using the cafe are that we can’t do running about activities the weeks we use Dunelm, but we just organise our programme so that we do those when we are in the hall or use the grassy area nearby. So not really a huge negative. 

We do a bit of promotion for Girlguiding when we are there as the girls are in uniform and people come and ask us what we’re up to.  

I would recommend other units try it if they are struggling to find accommodation as it is so flexible. 

At Asda the staff are really good and work their cleaning schedules round us. We can move tables and chairs for our activities and return them at the end of the session. If the cleaner sees a spillage, she will give us a hand to tidy up and often offers to rearrange the cafe after she has cleaned. 

We can use the shop for activities if we forget something for an activity it can usually be purchased to save moving to plan b. Parents often do weekend shopping while girls are at the meeting so pick up is always sharp. Like with Dunelm, we can’t play running games, but noise is not an issue. We also have to take girls in groups to the toilet as it’s not in cafe.  

If customers wander into the cafe thinking it’s open, we try to use the opportunity to suggest they might want to volunteer! 


You can find information on risk assessments and guidance for meeting venues below:

When to do a risk assessment | Girlguiding

Meeting places and times | Girlguiding

Find new venue | Girlguiding


If you would like to know more you can send us an email at


Look out for more unusual venue inspiration coming soon and get in touch if you have a similar story to share or would like some help. We’d love to hear from you!