Community. Good causes. And soup.
‘The Southend Soup’ is a simple idea - a movement that brings people together to fund good causes and raise awareness in the community. It’s based on the original Detroit Soup - the idea quickly spread and a network of Soups is now springing up across the UK.
At a Soup event, the basic idea is that everyone makes a voluntary donation of £5 in return for a bowl of homemade soup and bread. People with ‘Good Ideas’ each give a five-minute presentation, followed by questions. Slide shows are not allowed, but props and creativity are welcome. Everyone votes for their favourite idea and the one with the most votes collects the money in the kitty.
Ideas can include artistic ventures, business ideas or something that helps the community. Pitches have been as diverse as Christmas gifts for foodbank families, shelter for the homeless, a children’s eco art project, and peer support for mental wellbeing.
There are no rules about how the money should be spent. People are trusted to use the funding as they’ve said they will, but if they use it another way, that’s up to them - no one is held to account.
Everyone is encouraged to mingle and share ideas, and often there is a theme to the meeting as well as music, crafts and other stalls. The Soup is non-religious and non-political, and meetings are held at various venues around the town.
Individual captions at end of gallery.
1 Volunteer Helen, one of many who helps prepare and serve the soup.
2 Alex presents her ‘Good Idea’, which won the money at this Soup. Her voluntary community organisation ‘Get The Kids Out’ makes appeals to theme parks, tour companies etc for discounted group days out for children from families with lower incomes.
3 Rev Melanie presents her pitch to help local Syrian refugee families.
4 Musicians entertain the Soupers with an impromptu jam.
5 The Soup encourages local creatives to bring their skills to the event. Jobe is a regular performer with comedy, spoken word, juggling, and crystal ball.
6 Jason the Elvis impersonator entertains the Soup attendees - other acts have included ukulele players and local punk bands.
7 Rowan’s family sell vegan cakes in aid of his forthcoming voluntary work in Africa with the Balloon Ventures charity.
8 Local groups and grass root businesses often set up stalls at Soup meetings. The Essex Feminist Collective are regular attendees, sometimes offering face painting for children.
9 The Soup welcomes all members of the community, of which children are an important part.
10 Attendees at this Soup were given a token which they used to cast their vote by placing it in the relevant bowl.
11 Secret vote: at this Soup, attendees were given a post-it note voting paper by young Soupers on which they wrote their preferred choice of proposal.
12 Counting the votes.
13 Local food author, journalist and poverty rights campaigner Jack Monroe supported this Soup event by baking a selection of breads to serve with the soup.
14 Soup events often have an extra theme, such as this book swap event in support of World Book Night. Other themed Soups have included the Spoken Word Soup, the Autumn Comforts Soup, the Wellbeing Soup, the Swishing Soup (where people ‘swished’, ie. swapped, old clothes and other items) and the Summer Festival Soup.
15 The Soup is a place for local fundraisers and activists to meet and discuss ideas. Emily, fundraising for money towards a trip to Malawi with the charity Progressio, meets with a representative from CAST, a local asylum-seeker support group.
16 Southend Soup founder Sherry announces the winner of the evening’s funds, presented by past winner Caitlin, who runs a local breastfeeding support group. Paul and Darren from the Kaos Youth Club pitched for money towards a new ping pong table for their club which caters for 10 to 15 year olds.
17 Patricia, of the Southchurch Hall Inspirational Parkers - a voluntary group that meets fortnightly to clean up Southchurch Hall Gardens in Southend. The small park is home to a Grade I listed medieval moated house, duck ponds and gardens, but in recent years has suffered from litter, pollution and general neglect. The SHIP group were early winners of a Soup money pot, which they used to buy water butts.
18 The Retro Rhapsody Street Theatre were winners at this Soup. They are a walkabout entertainment and theatre performance group that sing original harmonies to passers-by on the street and at festivals.
19 Kamil’s community allotment was the beneficiary of the first ever Southend Soup event, in September 2013. The Southend In Transition Community Allotment was set up to give local people a place to meet, connect, and gain new skills and confidence; it’s one of a handful of such community allotments in the area. The money from the Soup paid for the shed at the allotment, and more money was raised through Waitrose’s green coin scheme. All tools are donated or recycled, and the allotment operates under a system of polyculture and permaculture values.
20 Twelve year old Rianna made the winning presentation at a Soup meeting, with 18 of the 57 votes cast, raising £230 for St Mary’s Horse Sanctuary in Hockley where she has volunteered for the last couple of years. The sanctuary cares for unwanted, neglected and abused horses.
21 The Little Free Library is a scheme whereby book boxes are placed at strategic points around the community. The aim is to get people both interested in reading again and to foster a community spirit. Boxes can be in front gardens, in public places such as the beach or outside pubs, and people are invited to ‘Take a book, Leave a book.’ Organiser Chris pitched for some money to help fund the scheme. She’s been working with a Shoebury school to help get the cost of production down, and she decorates and personalises the boxes herself.