On Saturday 9th January, the inaugural Lancaster Soup event took place upstairs at the Robert Gillow. Possibly the organisers had not expected such a massively enthusiastic turn out as every seat was taken and still more people came up the stairs and crammed themselves into whatever standing room was left. Front of house was Paul Pavli who greeted the new arrivals and collected the ‘winnings’. Everyone paid the £5 entrance fee that gained them a meal, a chance to listen to a Dragon’s Den style pitching session, and a poker chip with which to vote. Whoever won would go home with all of the money raised from the entrance fees. The room was absolutely abuzz with anticipation and interest.
As Matt MacDonald explained the rules of the game, melba toasts were passed around on platters. Two organisations were going to present, Matt told everyone. Both organisations were concerned in some way with food, because that was the theme for the night. Both organisations would explain what a bit of extra funding could do for them, what their aims were, and what they would do with the money.
First up was our chair. She gave a good talk, explaining clearly and with conviction what Lancaster People’s Cafe was all about, and she explained that we would really like to buy some equipment to allow us to set up a market stall. We particularly need catering size pans and a reliable burner. From a market stall, LPC would be able to reach more people and get our message heard. She talked for a bit less than the allotted five minutes, so I joined in and added a bit more, and then Matt called time. There was plenty of applause but had we done enough to win? Next up, Matt introduced Charlotte. Charlotte was relatively new to Morecambe and had found herself in a house with plenty of fruiting trees and bushes. Initially, she didn’t know how to manage the produce from her garden and became aware of what a wasted resource this was, and that there must be many gardens where this was happening. At the same time we buy food from supermarkets and end up throwing some of away, like packs of salad that don’t keep, when we could be growing them in our gardens. And some people are struggling to buy food, and yet if we got people together, they could share their garden space, knowledge, time and enthusiasm in order for everyone to benefit. Charlotte wanted to begin working on a small scale in her local area to develop this idea, perhaps putting together a little kit for people with some seeds and pots and growing instructions. More applause, and then Matt explained that it was time for people to talk, decide on their favourite project, and cast their vote. They would do this whilst eating onion soup and a pasta dish that was brought upstairs by Barry Callaghan and Mark Wildman who had been working away in the kitchen.
Paul worked his way through the crowded room, gathering poker chips into the voting box. We watched and wondered, but we didn’t have too long to wait before the result was announced. Lancaster People’s Cafe had won! The total takings were £275. We decided that Charlotte should really get a chance to pursue her idea so we gave her the £75 hoping that will allow her to put together a few of her growing kits and try them out with people. Matt congratulated both parties and said that we should come back in future to explain how we’ve spent the money and what it’s done for us.
So, next stop catering shop, and start looking out for us in the market!