Heaven and Hell: Painter and Dancing Goat Cafe co-owner Wendy Baker

Wendy Baker indulging in her love of painting

Wendy Baker indulging in her love of painting - Credit: Dan Woodside

After the hospitality industry began reopening last week, and alfresco dining and drinking became the ‘new normal’, Wendy Baker was somewhat ahead of the curve – by 20 years.

The artisan co-owner of the Dancing Goat Café in Framlingham, which is also her home, was one of the first to introduce outside seating in 2001 when she opened their café.

A proud Liverpudlian, Wendy is equally at home championing art and education, to working on her next creation, or enjoying the region’s countryside and coastline, with her partner Dan and their daughters. Here she talks to Gina Long.

What’s the impact of COVID-19 and how are you adapting?
It has been a very difficult year for everyone.

The cafe has been closed during the lockdowns, along with many of the other small businesses in the town.

We have a big connection with our local school and it has been really difficult for the students who work with us. With their uncertainty with exams and a general feeling of anxiety which they have all been feeling, the lockdown has taken its toll.

As the cafe is connected to our house, it has meant that lockdown has made the house very quiet and peaceful, as has Market Hill. No distractions, which on the plus side, has meant that I have been able to focus on my paintings this year.

I have missed the chats with our regulars, however, we are so happy to be open again.

What is your connection to East Anglia?
Prior to1996 when we moved to Framlingham from London and bought our house on Market Hill, I had no connection with East Anglia except for a friend that we visited occasionally.

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We were going to live in France, but we decided to move to Framlingham! At the time it was an easier move and Framlingham felt like a small French town, it has of course grown since then.

It was a random move, we just wanted to leave London, I think in retrospect it was a very wise one.

What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?
I love the local walks near Framlingham and the proximity to the coast and of course the landscape.

Norfolk is a great place to visit with its fantastic coastline, sense of space and the light that you get from the big East Anglian skies.

I also love all the small independent businesses that have flourished in the region over the years. I hope they are all still there as we move out of lockdown. It would be great to see them opening up on the high streets and filling the voids left by the big stores that have closed.

What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?
The politics.

What are your favourite East Anglian restaurants?
We are so lucky to have so much choice. Diplomacy rules, so I would say the best place to meet friends and go for a nice lunch is The Dancing Goat Cafe in Framlingham.

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?
Minsmere, walking through the woodland, heathland, wetland and coastal landscape is breath-taking and reminds me of the beautiful paintings of John Nash and the Blythburgh Estuary, Suffolk  by Roger Fry.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia?
So many to choose from. The Ink festival is one of my favourites.

It’s a weekend festival, set in Halesworth that celebrates new short plays. The Alde Valley festival is not to be missed. It’s a beautiful place to visit with exhibitions from a diverse mixture of artists and craftspeople. The concerts at Snape Maltings are a must visit too.

What your specialist Mastermind subject?
Liverpool FC,  during the years of Jürgen Klopp!

As a proud Liverpool fan, what did you make of the super league fiasco this week?
I was quite disgusted. Football comes from working class roots and Liverpool managers and their players have worked hard to create such a successful club. It’s shocking that American owners could decide to ignore the fans, players and manager and all those involved in the club to make decisions based on their greed.

What is always in your fridge?

What’s your simple philosophy of life?
Struggling to answer that question. ‘Always do your best and never give up.’

What’s your favourite film?
Impossible question. Bringing up Baby is a silly but great film because of Katherine Hepburn. I do like a good Netflix series, I’ve not long finished watching Madmen which I enjoyed, along with My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, which has been made into a series on Amazon and is very good.

Wendy Baker outside The Dancing Goat Cafe

Wendy Baker outside The Dancing Goat Cafe - Credit: Dan Woodside

What was your first job?
Working in a shoe shop near Liverpool

 What is your most treasured possession?
As John Lennon would say “Imagine no possessions,” but I guess our house, with all its memories.

Who do you admire most?
Jürgen Klopp.

What is your biggest indulgence?

What do you like about yourself most?
Loyalty, which I learnt from my parents.

What’s your worst character trait?
Wouldn’t like to say, I think Dan or my girls can answer that question! 

Where is your favourite holiday destination?
Italy, for the landscape, the light, the art, the food, the culture...

Best day of your life?
Having my children, they were pretty life-changing events.

What’s your favourite breakfast?
I’m not really a breakfast eater, tea followed by coffee, in that order.

What’s your favourite tipple?
Vodka and tonic with ice and freshly squeezed orange juice.

What’s your hidden talent?
Cutting hair during the lockdown.

What’s your earliest memory?
Playing skipping, hide and seek, hopscotch, French skipping, juggling two balls against a wall, out in the street with my friends.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?
I won lots of medals in my youth for ballroom dancing, goodness knows how I did that as I have big flat feet.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
I deliberately cannot remember!

Where did your love of art come from?
I went to Liverpool Art College and I then to the Royal College of Art in London.

I have had a varied career working on an animated film and I have also worked within the decorative arts and interior design and I have taught art to 11-18 year olds at a high school in Ipswich. I am now working on my own paintings.

Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?
I have made lots of good friends here and as a painter there is a huge network of like-minded people. My nephew Mark and his wife Nikki and their children now live here, he runs Leo’s Deli in Framlingham.

Our children have grown up here and we have all had special times and created good memories which would be hard for us to leave behind.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?
Since finishing teaching art in a high school in Ipswich, my focus is now to develop and produce my own paintings.

Before lockdown, I had my paintings showing in the cafe, until a famous local singer came in and bought them all! I am now working on a new collection. I would like to give a warm welcome to readers to come and see first-hand the Dancing Goat and visit beautiful Framlingham.

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