On 2nd November, we held our fourth Southend Soup – this time at the Southchurch end of town. We’re grateful to Belle Vue Baptist Church for letting us hire their hall and kitchen (perfect facilities for our gathering!)

Each soup experience is different and we hope to attract a mix of diverse people – especially those living in the vicinity of the venue. After all, it’s not just about the money, it’s about building community – connecting people with those they wouldn’t ordinarily bump into, or talk to, breaking down misconceptions, overcoming prejudice, building harmony, friendship, and all that sort of malarkey.

Group listening to proposals at southend soup

About 50 people came along – some bringing the family; activities for small people are provided. The Ecuadorian delegation (this session was wonderfully international) contributed colourful balloons and decorations to create a festival atmosphere. Only half of acoustic duo Warty Hubbard and Magic Cupboard could attend (we’re not sure whether Graham’s Warty or Cupboard) but he was joined for jamming by Keith on the banjolele, Julian on guitar and Geoff ‘Da Konga Kid’ on conga drum. Geoff came straight from a roundhouse gig – swathed in aromas of incense and log fire.

Musical performers jamming at soup

Everyone got stuck into preparing soup, buttering rolls, sorting out drinks and miscellaneous other bustling about. A particular thank you to Pete, who made up a batch of delicious red pepper soup for his first visit to our project and to Fiona – who’s becoming a regular chef! (Fiona’s also a member of Southend in Transition’s Community Allotment project – having met them at our first soup.)

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People like having a role at soup gatherings, so two friendly soupers (Beccy & Sarah) were tasked with wandering about and collecting stories; asking such questions as what brings you alive? Hopefully they enjoyed and were enriched by the encounters – I might have snippets from their conversations to share soon.

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If anyone that attended has any stories to share – their own story, or something nice about someone new they met – I’d love to hear from you!

We encourage people to bring artistic wares to share or sell, or business/organisation cards for networking. Sun bought beautiful gifts created by her and her daughter – rainbow hued bracelets, angel adorned stones and delicate painted shells.

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Sara (like Warty, a familiar face at soup) bought her raw vegan chocolates. Mouth-wateringly good. Sara has a range of chocs and hand-made soaps available for Xmas/the winter solstice/random acts of gift-giving.

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The three ideas seeking funding were Debbie and her home-made wiggly bags and sock monkeys (oh how I loved those sock monkeys!) for kids with cancer, Bernie and her Just Listening to You therapy service, and Maria and the Southend Anglo-Hispanic circle. You can read details about all three on the proposals page. As ever, everyone was worthy, and Bernie won the night’s taking – around £160.

Although there’s only one winner, presenting at soup gives people the chance to spread the word about what they do, and maybe get support in other ways.

You don’t have to bid for funding either: two speakers took the opportunity to tell people about their ventures. Cass talked about Southchurch foodbank – attached to the church. Volunteers are welcome, as are supplies. As Cass explained, this includes things other than the usual donations of tinned goods (although those are welcome too!) Here’s their shopping list. Mara, Stanford and Wisdom spoke from the group CAST; Communities & Asylum Seekers together. There’s much mythology around regarding immigrants and asylum seekers: one of CAST’s aims is to generate a more positive discourse. Immigrants and refugees can be very isolated in communities, and they have much to offer. CAST connects people – eg through film and music events, and by volunteering with other community groups; like the ‘Trinity friendship group’ (Trinity Family Centre) which supports older people and carers.

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Finally, I have to say how happy we were to welcome Karen and her family who made the trip down from Colchester to have a nose at what we do. Karen’s now looking at setting up a Colchester Soup, so look out for that if you’re in the north of the County!

After such a lively gathering, I was keen to get the next date in toot sweet. It’ll go up on the dates page when I get around to it, but for now:

Sunday 18th January, 2pm, Epic Quest Alternative Education Centre

We’re most excited.

One proposal’s already in the pipeline. Add yours now by filling in the form on the Submit a Proposal page, or drop me an email sherryfuller@hotmail.co.uk

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