independent

Saturday 2 August 2014

The community spirit

Published 21/09/2011|11:31

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DO YOU know your next door neighbour? How about that family that live three houses away?

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There's no doubt that the close-knit communities Ireland has always been famous for have crumbled somewhat in recent times. However, if one Newtownmountkennedy man gets his way, that's all about to change.

Last year, Samuel Bishop and some friends were throwing about ideas on how to build more sustainable communities when they came up with the idea for Street Feast.

Put simply, Street Feast is a day to celebrate your local community by coming together and enjoying a delicious (preferably outdoor) meal in the heart of your local area. It is hosted by individuals and neighbours and is a means to get to know local residents, enjoy some tasty food and have fun.

'It's about celebrating people around food,' said Samuel. 'It's not a new idea having a street party but it gives people an excuse to come together.'

With a background in architecture, Samuel felt that having the feasts out in the open and utilising public parks, greens or streets was a key element of the project.

'Part of it is redefining public space and changing people's perception of public space. Street Feast is about finding common ground on common ground.'

The first ever Street Feast took place last year after just a few months of planning and publicity by Samuel and his colleagues.

'It was really amazing. There were about 30 feasts held around the country and we were very happy with that,' he recalled.

From little acorns mighty oaks grow, and in 2011, more and more communities came on board for the second Street Feast on Sunday, August 28.

One of those feasts took place in Samuel's native Newtownmountkennedy where, in the true spirit of the day, local businesses sponsored prizes for a raffle and a local musician brought along his guitar and started a spontaneous sing-song.

Another Street Feast in Dublin-based Samuel's adopted home, Stoneybatter, has seen older members of the community who have lived there for years integrate more with their new, younger neighbours.

A lady living in Ashbourne, Co. Meath, also contacted Samuel to say that, having only moved to the area three weeks before the first Street Feast in 2010, the event she organised in her estate had since led to a number of community activities and meant that, when she had to have an operation, she had a great support network around her to help her get back on her feet.

Rather than a centrally organised affair, Street Feasts are organised locally, by individuals or a group of neighbours, although they do receive some support from Samuel and his colleagues who provide a guide full of tips on how to get a Street Feast off the ground.

'We don't want it to be a top-down thing, we want to give people the tools to be able to do it themselves,' said Samuel.

'To try to organise one yourself can be quiet difficult as you can end up taking a lot on yourself, so we really encourage everyone to organise a meeting beforehand to try get everyone on board,' said Samuel.

'We're not trying to create new networks, we're just encouraging people to build on what's already there,' said Samuel.

'We've had some really lovely stories back from people and those are so encouraging to hear,' said Samuel.

For more information about Street Feast or for some ideas on hosting your own local event, visit www.streetfeast.ie.

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