The Streatham Food Festival is an annual, you guessed it, festival of food. I live in Streatham and the festival's director, Pauline Milligan, is a good friend. Pauline is passionate about supporting the local area - and also making and eating food. She single-handedly raises the funds, programmes and produces the festival - a rather incredible feat - and she brings in a small local team to help deliver it.
I've had two roles since 2013, to recruit and manage a team of 40 volunteers and to plan and manage the food fair. We use Streatham Green for the fair, a small pigeon-infested scrap of grass between the A23 and Mitcham Lane - it doesn't sound encouraging. But it's a challenge we've relished. Could we transform this malingers' den into a fun and enticing venue?
One of our aims for the first year in 2013 was to actually get people to sit on the grass (once Cummings the street cleaner had picked up all the fag-butts and drug paraphernalia). We were blessed with good weather and, with the help of a mouth-watering array of dishes and some lazy melodies from local musician Trevor John, we had about 1000 people join us for the day. It was a thrill. And yes, they sat on the grass.
In 2014 we stuck with the demo tent, workshops and kids activities, increased the number of stalls, and about 3000 people came. It was thronging all day, the alcoholic ice creams had sold out by 3pm and the queue for the hog roast stretched up the road as the steel band infused the sound of passing traffic with a friendly Caribbean lilt. In 2015 we extended the site onto Babington Plaza, adding more traders and musicians, and it felt like we had really created something special.
I've also really enjoyed working with the volunteers. Nowadays there are lots of volunteering opportunities available - so you have to be honest about what experience you can offer prospective sign-ups. Some volunteers travelled long distances across London to be a part of the event - but the majority were locals, people from all walks and backgrounds looking to get involved, meet others, support the local area, and mostly, feel connected to where they live. It's been a pleasure getting to know them during festival time.