In other words free food with dignity for everyone.
It has been a very busy few months for Bournemouth Beacon members following their first meeting back in November.
Clare Ryalls, Cate Baker and Kimm Fearnley had little idea that their Vegan Supper Club-themed meeting would propel their local beacon into public consciousness and service so quickly and that their Calls To Action would soon be mirroring national headlines and impacting on the homeless people living in their area.
“We invited the local soup kitchen to talk about their work in our community but we had no idea how little we understood about the homeless and the work of volunteers.” said Kimm
Having heard about the struggle of the charity and the growing problem in the community, members quickly signed up to make meals and serve food and more than £600 was donated from the proceeds of the night to purchase much-needed warm clothing.
Additionally the Beacon supplied:
80 season four sleeping bags
80 pairs boxers
50 pairs of warm socks
10 pairs gloves
45 toilet rolls
40 wet wipes
20 shower gels
Donated clothes, boots and made nutritious meals.
Six of the attendees are now on the regular rota.
Andy Scaysbrook and Kimm Fearnley collaborated on a project interviewing and photographing the homeless with the aim of giving them a voice by way of a series of features and portraits.There are plans to run more of their stories in The Bugle and to create an exhibition of these wonderful portraits in the town.
Sadly another soup kitchen attendee died one cold night and the story of “Kev” hit the national headlines - for many of the wrong reasons and as a result Andy and Kimm are the only “Press” invited to the funeral on February 16th.
Members have also been invited to a meeting with councillors on March 7th to discuss ideas to find ways to feed and give dignity back to the 700 local people who are using the food banks.
As Peace Campaigner, Scilla Ellworthy teaches us, solutions will not be found by attacking the decision-makers. The Bournemouth Beacon intends to offer to work with the local council and other established groups to pool skills and help to find creative solutions to the problems of homelessness and hunger in their town.
One idea is to set up a funky, modern food co-operative to enable all residents to bypass the supermarkets and purchase good, cheap food directly from the suppliers. A small percentage will be added to the prices - while still dramatically undercutting the chains - to enable those in need to simply take whatever they need from the shelves and “pay’ using a discreet card at the checkout.
In other words free food with dignity for everyone who currently relies on the food banks.
"There is enough goodwill and good food for everyone, we just need to find creative ways to make sure everyone has access by tapping into existing resources and offering new solutions," says Kimm.
"It is also important to properly understand why people are on the streets, how they got there and to identify those who need, and crucially, who want help. It's too easy to constantly condemn the council without actually listening to the reasons behind their actions and without getting to know those on the streets and what can be done to help them."
By interviewing some of the homeless and talking to the council, Beacon members feel they have a depth of understanding that could not have come from reading a few paragraphs in a newspaper or social media thread.
"The truth is our local councils do some great work in keeping our town and beaches beautiful and to constantly attack them for not doing enough without taking time to understand the problem properly and to discuss the reason for some of their, seemingly cruel actions, is like trying to drive a car on a main road without ever having a single lesson," says Kimm. "These problems are complexed and can not be easily resolved. That's why we need to talk, to work together, to understand. To respond not to react. It's what Beacons are all about."
The second idea the Bournemouth Beacon is proposing is a pilot scheme to replecate various, existing co-operative farming models to grow food for thousands of families - especially those in need. Campfire Convention member Richard Garnett of the Community Farm in Chew Magna is offering his advice and support.
The supermarkets stand accused of ripping off both the suppliers and the customers, the suppliers need to get their goods to the customers, the customers do not want to be charged extortionately for buying food so a food co-operative is a proven and simple way to redress the balance and empower consumers while helping those less fortunate.
The food co-operative would also provide a social hub for anyone wanting to learn to cook cheaply and nutritiously with regular food demonstrations and will also link up with allotment owners and micro industries to supply their goods directly to the public.
There are many other collaborative plans underway and at the second meeting on February a member of the RNLI tcame along to discuss the charity's important work tackling ocean clean ups and education on the issue of plastics. The Vegan Pot Luck was well attended with almost 30 people bringing their favourite dishes to share and the discussions were lively and enthusiastic. We also learned a great deal more from the wonderful speaker, Anna Frizzell from the RNLI about the damage plastics are causing to our lives and the planet and what we can do to make a difference. Bamboo toothbrushes will be distributed to all attendees at our next meeting and a full list of resources and information will follow.
As a result, the next meeting will be held at a wonderful venue overlooking the beautiful beach between Bournemouth and Poole on Saturday March 10th and will begin with a Beach Clean Up followed by another vegan supper, a talk by another community group, live music and a fire on the beach.
Of course there will be another call to action!
Tickets will be £20 including food and a donation to the speaker's cause and it will be held at the beautiful Branksome Dene Room rooms overlooking the bay between Bournemouth and Poole.We want everyone who wants to come to be able to no matter their finances so if it's going to be a struggle to buy a ticket then drop us line - we want you to come anyway! There will be plenty for everyone.
Get your tickets here or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: Branksome Dene Community Room
Promenade, Poole BH13 6JP
Date: Saturday March 10th
Time: Beach Clean at 4pm to 6pm. Talks and supper at 6pm. Campfire on the beach weather permitting. Music until 10.30pm.