How Rotherham abuse survivor Sammy Woodhouse is moving on with new café in town
The woman who blew the whistle on the Rotherham child abuse scandal is beginning a new chapter in her life.
Sammy Woodhouse has opened a dessert bar, Brookers, in Rawmarsh – and she says the venture represents a fresh start.
The 34-year-old published her autobiography, Just A Child, in 2018, detailing how she was groomed from the age of 14 and eventually helped to expose the extent of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham by speaking to the press.
"I want to try and get a little bit of me back,” said the former beauty salon owner, whose cafe specialises in luxury ice cream – as well as a line of ice cream cakes.
"This is nothing to do with CSE, although obviously if people want to talk to me about that then I will listen, but this is unrelated to that, this is part of my new life," Sammy said.
Opening hours of the café are extended to 10pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Sammy’s sister Rachel Williams, 36, said: "Sammy has worked very hard to get where she is today, it is heartbreaking to have witnessed the journey she has been on but I am so proud of her and how far she has come after so much hard work.
"There is so much more to Sammy. Hopefully this will show people that no matter what has happened in your life, you can build your future."
Sammy added: "There is only one way to kill the enemy and that is success, I am moving on, I will still do some campaigning but this is a new chapter of my life that is about me."
Sign up to our daily newsletter
The sisters said it was around April this year when Sammy started to think about what she wanted to do next. While chatting, they remembered how their mother Julie Brooks had wanted to open a cafe before she died suddenly in 2004.
"We didn't have any qualifications, we had to Google how to make a milkshake," said Sammy.
The sisters sprang into action and within a month they had bought the business and renovated it to their required standard. The cafe’s name is inspired by their mum, whose maiden name was Brooks and was known as ‘Brookers’ growing up.
Rachel said: "We decided that we would be helping and giving back to this community so everything we sell is locally sourced. For example our milk is from local farms. We hired six local people. The customers know them already and often come in just for a chat which is great."
Some desserts will be gluten free and there is also a small healthy range. The luxury ice cream comes in 10 different flavours. Hot food, sandwiches and drinks are on the menu too.
"I do feel like we have our mum's blessing," said Sammy.
"The very first day we opened, four of mum's favourite songs came on the radio, it was a gentle sign that she was acknowledging how proud she was of what we had achieved in her memory."
Sammy isn’t leaving her activism behind completely, however. She is considering producing a second book aimed at educating children to recognise if they are being groomed.
And she has hinted at a possible career move into television presenting. "I can't really talk too much about it yet but I am really excited for what the future holds."
Brookers is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays, 8am to 2pm. The cafe on Monkwood Road reopens from 6pm to 10pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.