The Cafe usually takes place at St. John's Church, Bridgetown or in the Royal Seven Stars, Totnes. Participants are seated around candle-lit tables and hot and cold drinks plus snacks are available. When held in St. John's the Cafes are hybrid (both live attendance and streamed) while in the Seven Stars they are live attendance only.


The cafe opens at 7:30 and runs from 8:00 to 10:00 pm, usually on the last Friday of the month - but see each advertisement for precise dates.


The invited speaker introduces a topic for discussion that might potentially illuminate an understanding of consciousness for around 45 minutes. This is followed by around 15 minutes open discussion with the speaker involving the whole cafe (including both live and streamed participants). Participants then break for restocking of drinks, etc. and, when live, engage in round-table discussions of issues arising from the prior talks, or on whatever themes they feel to be important, for around 30 minutes. Live participants sharing tables may or may not already know each other, so this is also an opportunity for introductions. Our experience has been that this informal part of the proceedings is much valued as it provides an opportunity for everyone to engage with the issues and to share thoughts and experiences.  For the final 30 minutes or so the cafe comes together again and  participants can raise any further issues that they would like the speaker to address or that they want to share with others. The consciousness cafe is then formally closed, but when based in the Seven Stars, the bar remains open (until closing time).


The Cafe provides a forum where human consciousness and our relationship to the planet can be openly explored in ways that may be relevant to the urgent crises of our time.  Potential contributions range widely from philosophy, science, and the arts to more direct, Eastern and Western techniques for investigating and transforming consciousness.  Our experience over a few years has been that this open ethos combined with the above format works well, and might be usefully incorporated into similar cafes, set up for similar purposes in other communities.

Entrance: £5 via bookings on Eventbrite or, if not fully booked, on a first-come, first-served basis at the door.   


Max Velmans is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London.  He has been exploring consciousness through many avenues for over 50 years and views the Cafe as one enjoyable, hopefully useful extension of this exploration. He lives with his family in Totnes.

Wendy Stayte is a retired children's psychiatrist and psychotherapist, living in Totnes, and is involved in many local community projects that support the future of life on earth, including those that may prompt a change of heart and mind-set.

Gordon Ellis was a Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies at Salford University. He served as Spiritual Director of Khandro Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre for 7 years and has authored 5 books of poetry, two of prose (Rootless Tree Pubs) and co-authored ‘Avoiding Extinction’ with Alexander Matthews.

David Noyce is a retired civil servant, living in Dartington, with a long interest in Buddhist meditation and philosophical enquiry. Until recently he was Chair of Plymouth College of Art (now Arts University Plymouth) and is committed to the transformative effects of education in people’s lives.

Barbara Smith has recently retired from working in mental health, mostly in the NHS. She much appreciates living in Totnes with its opportunities to join others, in different groups, working so energetically, creatively, and daringly towards a more sustainable, fairer future for our planet

John Thornton is an Adjunct Associate Professor of AI at Griffith University in Australia. Until 2022, he also taught phenomenology and philosophy of consciousness at the Free University Brighton. His last consciousness-related book was the ‘The Questioning of Intelligence’ (FUBText 2021).

Technical Team

Jim Barlow is Rector of Totnes and Bridgetown with a practical interest in exploring consciousness and accidental live streaming engineer.

Rod Longhurst retired from a career in the BBC after 36 years, working mainly as a Documentary Film Editor based at Ealing Film Studios. He now lives in Totnes close to his extended family.

Brian Collins is now retired after working for 45 years as an electronics engineer in the recording and broadcast industries.

For more details contact: Wendy at or Max at

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