our philosophy is that love and laughter should be a main ingredient in everyone’s life daily.

So goes the mission statement of Epicquest Alternative Education Centre; gracious hosts of the first Southend Soup of the year. The centre provides a homely, artistic space where Soupers were made to feel very welcome. Founder Julian was on hand to conduct tours of the facility and to explain their philosophy:

Increase community spirit , collective community involvement, resourceful living environment regeneration, earth and people care, building and retaining relationships. We can do this through music, human values, morals regarding the future.

It’s easy to see why they’re a great fit with Soup! Over 50 people came along. All ages from the yet to grow hair to the silver haired. We were happy to welcome our friends from Colchester Soup who are achieving superb things up in North Essex. As ever, activities were provided for the young and young at heart, people shared books and magazines they felt would be of interest to others, Sara sold her mouth-watering vegan raw chocs and Graham & Wayne – Warty Hubbard & His Magic Cupboard – kept everyone entertained (with several younger Soupers joining in on drums.)

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Soup was provided courtesy Pete and Fiona. We’re most grateful to them for taking the time to cook up a feast. Thanks also to everyone that bought bread and bits to share. For the first time, we ran out of soup! To my mortification (after going around telling people to have more! there’s plenty!) I violated the sacred rule that applies when people are entertaining for free – ALWAYS feed the band. (I hope they’ll forgive me!) All three presenters were, as ever, magnificent and worthy. It’s a tough call to vote for a winner. However, Soup is about more than the money. It’s about raising awareness of ventures – be they community, artistic or business – thus enabling people to offer help in other ways. Soupers might have useful connections (or be a useful connection), might be able to offer their time or services, or know where to point presenters for further help.

We heard from… Mandie of Street Spirit – a collective of people supporting rough sleepers through donations of food and clothing, and plenty of empathy.

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Pete from Just Ride – a scheme whereby people get to ride in safety on modified bikes; people that are usually excluded from riding, such as people with learning disabilities, who are Just Ride’s main customers.

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Vally, Wisdom, Stanford and Mara from Communities & Sanctuary Seekers Together (CAST) – an initiative that supports Asylum Seekers (who have no recourse to public funds) by hosting them in family homes, helping them navigate a confusing system, and providing opportunities to connect with the community. CAST bought a friend with them – Victoria Bear; the local version of Paddington. She proved pretty popular!

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The winners were CAST, taking £240, which will fund a celebration event for CAST and the Southend Community. We’ll all be invited, so we’ll keep you posted! CAST were so grateful about winning that they have offered to make the Soup for the March event. (Hence the Afro part of the Afro-Punk theme!) We also got a great spot of publicity from the Evening Echo!  Here are some of the contributors to January (not already mentioned):

My heartiest appreciations to Mark for hosting, looking after us, showing people round and showing me how to use the kettle, Dwayne for keeping everyone in beverages and for raising a few pounds for the centre via tea donations, Chloe and Andrew for extra help in the kitchen and with tidying up afterwards, Jon for filling in the visitors book so we can keep in touch with everyone, Jenny for taking the donations, and for all of your support throughout, Lara for bringing colour and crochet and for sorting out the votes. And to EVERYONE that came to the event.

Soup works because people. Bringing things to sell or share, making connections and offering to help one another, making friends, chipping in with all the odd jobs that need doing during the afternoon. This is a true collaborative project and I’m delighted people are choosing to join in.

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