This month we have a double blog for you! The Our Bright Future project, Spaces 4 Change, is delivered by UnLtd. It is a UK wide programme that finds, funds, supports and connects young people aged 16-24 to start and run social ventures that unlock the potential of unused or under-utilised spaces for the benefit of the local community, especially other young people. This month you can see the diversity of the projects that young people are pioneering.
“I wanted the town to have the ownership of it. I didn’t want it to be something I had done, I wanted it to be something ‘we’ had done”, says Millie, “I wanted to build up some sort of momentum for change in the town”. Millie is the co-founder of Northern Soul Kitchen, a food waste initiative and pay-as-you-feel cafe in the heart of Berwick-upon-Tweed. The project, which opens its doors later this month, is based in a previously abandoned shop. Using unsold food from the local shops in Berwick, it aims to create healthy food in a welcoming environment. Customers pay whatever they think the food is worth, making it accessible for those who might otherwise not be able to afford it. You can even volunteer your time and skills to pay for a meal.
The idea originally was for a single food-waste pop up at Berwick’s 2015 Christmas market. But the team soon started thinking bigger. After two years of pop-ups and small events, support from the UnLtd Spaces 4 Change programme, allowed Northern Soul Kitchen to put down permanent roots. Spaces4Change, supports 16 to 24 year olds to unlock the potential in unused or underused spaces. The programme is funded by the Big Lottery Fund through Our Bright Future. The former home of Tweed Televisions had been left to go to rack and ruin for the last four years. Thanks to Millie and co-founder Harriet, it’s been reinvigorated as the home of Northern Soul Kitchen.
Northern Soul Kitchen is a simple concept, according to Millie, “we intercept the unsold food and create pay as you feel meals out of it”. The ‘why’ behind the idea is more complex. After meeting with the local community trust in Berwick they realised that there was a real need for a sustainable social project supporting people in the community.“We don’t necessarily have people sleeping on the streets, but there’s this hidden group of people that you might not see”, says Millie, “Our women’s refuge at that point was spilling out at the seams. And the foodbank was accessed every day and doubled in two years.” The statistics show rising child poverty across Northumbria, with parts of Berwick among the worst affected areas. For Millie something needed to change: “I just thought that it was about time that somebody took the bull by the horns and created something. Instead of waiting for the town and the council to do something for us, let’s just do it.”
Community at its heart
Northern Soul Kitchen is grounded in the community it supports. As England’s northernmost town Berwick can feel distant, according to Millie. Setting up a permanent home for Northern Soul Kitchen was as much about a mental transformation as it was a physical one. “I hoped it would instill that message – it’s completely do-able and we’re not this forgotten town that the council has to help.” Northern Soul Kitchen is set to be a collaborative community space. It fits with Millie’s ethos of involving the community. Already they’ve worked with local organisations like Calmer Therapy, a local parent group for children with additional or complex needs. With Millie’s background in health and social care, it felt like a perfect match and she agreed to host the group and facilitate support sessions.
Inspiring other local organisations has been a huge success of the Northern Soul Kitchen team. A local law firm offered legal support to get set up and funding for 12 months of workshops hosted in the new Northern Soul Kitchen space for Calmer Therapy came from Berwick’s largest employer, Simpsons Malt. People in the community have helped with the refurbishment too. The interior of the abandoned shop needed a lot of work. Three recently retired locals offered to help Millie tear out the damp and damaged plywood walls. A local architectural technician did the architectural drawings and helped with the planning applications, all for free.
Keep up to date with Northern Soul Kitchen on their Facebook page here.