Soul Soup is one of four Gateshead projects which make up Generations Together (GT) Gateshead. It is unusual amongst GT projects nationally in that it combines the arts and food to meet the aim of GT which is to promote intergenerational volunteering and encourage meaningful interaction between young and old generations.
Soul Soup is community-based work enabling local groups to set up a ‘Soul Soup Café’; a meeting place for people of all ages to come together to discuss what is important to them in their community. The aim is that the café creates a forum for creative consultation and conversation, encouraging people from across the generations to confront stereotypes and misconceptions they may have about each other.
Soul Soup tackles the GT aims by creative means, including practitioners such as artists and other professionals working in creative industries such as chefs, designers, interior designers, landscape architects etc. and subsequently a range of art forms and media.
The project includes wider health professionals such as Health Trainers, PCTs, GPs, nutritionists etc.; as well as interesting a range of organisations and agencies such as Food Co-operatives, Allotment Associations and community gardens.
How does it work?
Soul Soup works on the premise that the most productive way to create conversation and dialogue is through food, and that making and eating food together is a ‘safe way’ of drawing generations and groups together.
The Soul Soup project includes the following:
- Soup / food and chefs / food professionals
- The arts and creative practitioners
- Conversation / consultation
- Sustainability / legacy
The initial concept started out in the flexible format below, although this is tailor-made to each project and changes and adapts creatively to suit the needs and wishes of the communities involved.
Soup workshop/s – design and make a recipe
A chef will work with groups to design and make their chosen recipe(s), incorporating healthy eating, sourcing locally produced ingredients and advising on health and safety and hygiene procedures.
Creative workshop/s – decorate the venue / tell a story
Visual artists, graphic designer, architect, printer, textile artist, song writer, actor, sculptor etc – it’s up to groups to decide what their café event looks like and who they would like to work with to make this happen. Maybe a textile artist can help make tablecloths and napkins, a photographer help make placemats or posters for the wall or a ceramist help make soup bowls or tureens.
Design and marketing workshop/s – promote the event to the community
The designer will help the groups look at how to promote their event to the wider community – invitations, posters, web design, local leaflet of services, Twitter and Facebook – how do people communicate with friends and family, who or what is their community and how would they encourage their community to take part?
The Soul Soup Café – creative consultation – ask the community
The soup is made, venue decorated, groups have invited the community in to eat and talk to each other. The event could be the vehicle for consulting on a specific issue – or just encourage discussion on an intergenerational issue or what it is like to live in a particular community. Groups can choose to provide entertainment. There may be local groups who would like to display their work and stimulate debate, or decision and policy makers to involve in discussions.
Soul Soup Funding Pot – bid for money for a project important to the community
There is a fund of £25,000 for community groups taking part in the Soul Soup project to bid into to deliver further creative work – to develop or explore further an issue, idea or partnership that has been a result of their involvement in Soul Soup.
It is important that the community steers the direction and takes ownership of their project so that it has meaning and value. The idea of what ‘soup’ and a ‘café event’ is, is open to interpretation and does not have to be taken literally. For example, the recipes may be lyrics to a song, the café event may be an online cafe chat forum etc.
The Soul Soup projects 2009/10
3 pilot café events took place in 2009/10.
The Soul Soup projects 2010/11
10 more projects are taking place in 2010/2011.
Who is involved in each Soul Soup project?
- Gateshead Council’s Arts Development Team.
- ‘Agents for Change’ – volunteers within the community who are willing to dedicate time to working with intergenerational groups, a chef, designer and artists.
- 2 community groups of different ages (under 25s and over 55s) – to work with Agents for Change, artists, designer and chef and promote their event to the community.
- Chef / food professionals
- Creative practitioner/s such as professional artists
- Designer / marketer
- The wider community – including friends, relatives and neighbours.
- Other local authority partners including the Neighbourhood Management Teams, Youth Services, Health Trainers, Community Nutritionists, as well as wider partners such as the PCT, The Sage Gateshead, Zendeh Theatre Company, Shipley Art Gallery etc.
The ‘Agents for Change’ are the key facilitators, choosing groups and venue, issues and people to work with. They will be encouraged to publicise the café event to the wider community, inviting them in to eat and discuss issues important to the community, to help facilitate the café event and discussion, collecting information and feedback. The product of these conversations may further through the Soul Soup Funding Pot, with groups undertaking more local arts based activities to tackle issues and support local solutions to generations working and living better together.
Soul Soup looks to draw on innovation and creativity from communities themselves and the creative practitioners who will support them. Soul Soup will develop locally relevant and creative cultural projects, create a welcoming place for young and old to meet together and harness, encourage and celebrate the creativity of local people. Creativity and innovation will be encouraged both in the development of the Soul Soup Café event and in turning the ideas generated at this event between the generations, into reality.
The Soul Soup Recipe Book
A Soul Soup Recipe Book for Gateshead will provide a lasting legacy of the project. This will include recipes but also a little background on each of the 13 projects, photographs, anecdotes, diagrams, pictures etc. and will be a key celebration and resource for all stakeholders.
Following the dialogue in the café, hopefully new partnerships, networking, confidence or enthusiasm, and the possible identification of local concerns, the groups can then choose to create further local projects to work on together to address those issues with a view to changing perceptions and improve understanding, promote respect and the capacity for better coexistence across generations. There is a pot of money of £25,000 set aside for groups to bid into. Working with a member of the Arts Team, they will also be advised on other sources of funding from the local authority, grants and trusts.
The project depends on the enthusiasm, commitment and time of the people who want to make a difference in their community and who know their community. There is bespoke training available to volunteers who would like some additional support – and this is accredited through the Open College. Further volunteering opportunities will be signposted as appropriate.
For further information on the Soul Soup Cafe Events or how to get involved either as a community group, or a volunteer please contact:
Arts Development Team, Gateshead Council
The Old Town Hall, West Street, Gateshead, NE8 1HE
Project Officer- Laura Hunter
0191 433 6923
Project Administrator- Jessica Johnson
Project Manager- Mari Macdonald,
Photographs: Mark Savage