Goat's Cheese, Wham and Second Chances
Written by: Violet Myers
Hopefully, the closest most of us will ever get to prison is binge watching ‘Orange is the New Black’ on Netflix, succumbing to ‘Porridge’ at Christmas or that brief stint with ‘Bad Girls’ during the 00’s. Lest we forget. But for thousands of young British people prison is a harsh reality, which doesn’t simply end once they have served their time. Being released back into society can be an exceptionally difficult and emotional process, especially when trying to re-connect with their communities and find work. We attended criminal justice charity Only Connect’s third North London supper club to meet some of the individuals they have been helping, in an effort to show second chances do exist.
I’m greeted warmly into the heavily decorated hall by an incredibly friendly, confident lad, who wears a large woolly hat with his shirt and tie. He’s one of the evening’s entertainers and, as well as singing like a black Michael Jackson, he leads the diners through games and reads monologues between courses. He’s joined on the music committee by a soul singer that commands attention and a shy rapper who treats the party hat wearing crowd of mainly over fifties to a rapped version of Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’… a sight I hope to never forget.
The charity offers courses in catering, music, drama and social enterprise. The supper clubs are an opportunity to bring all of their work together, whilst giving the participants a common goal. It’s also a chance to raise money for the charity itself, which means they can continue to offer a fair London wage to all those involved with the organisation.
As I head into the small kitchen, which is packed with people chopping, stirring and frying, I watch as the finishing touches are added to the starter plates. A young kitchen hand, who can’t be older than twenty, struggles to create a neat balsamic glaze pattern. This is until a mate suggests that he uses his graffiti tag as a ‘guide pattern’, resulting in thirty identically decorated plates of goats cheese salad, that look delicious.
I speak to *Tom, who is painstakingly prepping the next course, about how OC’s project has helped him:
“I’m enjoying it and I’m picking up new skills and meeting new people, it keeps me focused and gives me something to do. I’d like to be a chef some day and cook my own Caribbean food.”
*Jamal, who is stirring a pot of vegetables the size of a ten year old and has been with the project for four months, tells me that although he doesn’t have aspirations to work in the food industry he appreciates the experience “I want to produce music, I’m looking to break into the industry, that’s what I do. But I took this opportunity in the kitchen as I really enjoy it and want to build on my work experience.”
The food looks really impressive and is very proudly prepared by the small team of kitchen workers, many of whom have only been out of prison for a couple of weeks. Louise, who is head of the catering department, explains that she runs a ten week course straight out of prison and that their main aim is to help offenders gain confidence and experience, so they can find future work in the catering industry.
As the main course of gammon goes out to the diners, I grab a word with Dani, who is head of delivery at the charity.
Though several helpers, like her and Louise, are present I’m told that the events are almost entirely thought-up by the participants, as they feel they know how’s best to help them. Dani goes on to explain “These nights are really a combination of all of our work, we celebrate the guys talents, getting them to share with the world how talented they are. There are so many things going on in their lives, but these events bring them together, they know what they have to achieve and there’s a quick outcome. We want to challenge stigmas and create responsibility outside these four walls. reaching out and integrating our guys into their own communities.”
The event goes off without a hitch. I sneak out before dessert, a giant chocolate roulade that one of the guys has already warned me is ‘the size of sleeping bag’, but before I go I talk to our hat wearing entertainer, who’s taking a break between songs.
“I’ve been involved in different OC projects for years now. I never called myself a performer until I joined, I knew I wanted to be, but I had severe stage fright and just couldn’t do it. They coached me and trained me and now I’m doing it.” It’s hard to believe that this charismatic, talented singer, who has been entertaining a roomful of people all night could ever have a trouble being on stage. He continues:
‘OC gave me my first opportunity, personally it has been life changing’
Only Connect will be running a monthly supper club, to find out about upcoming events or get involved in upcoming projects go to their website: Only Connect or go straight to Tickets to the next OC Supper Club.
*Names have been changed.
Photos: Violet Myers
Spirited away from the hubbub of the city, sitting on the bustling boundaries of Islington and Camden, a 65 metre wide gallery resides hidden behind the Attic Self Storage building in Kings Cross. Market Road Gallery is a newly opened space for everyone to contribute to. It is London’s first bookable open air public gallery. Everyone, from the neighbourhood cat to a fancy pants established artiste, can create artwork for the space.
Today Britain will relish (moan) in 16 hours and 38 minutes of daylight, with the sun rising at 4:43am and setting at 9:31pm. It’s set to be a record breaking 33 degrees in London. I for one am going to need all the help I can get not to disappear like the wicked witch of the West into a sticky puddle on Stroud Green Road. Here’s our Solstice-worshipping, Pagan inspired tips for surviving the hottest and longest day of the year in London.
It’s time. Time to bask (complain) in the sun and ask why god why when will it end?? Yes, Summer is officially here for the week, the hottest week in the last 20 years. This Friday, Drum n Bounce are coming all the way down South to help us celebrate this fact, as healthily as possible. Right in the middle section of VeloPark (link) you can take part in uplifting and limbering flow yoga with Tammy’s Yoga before 45 minutes of energising drum n bounce aerobics. This is basically getting hot and fit and dancey to your favourite tracks before you head off in to the night (or bed) with a massive sweaty smile on your mug.
Next Friday night, ignore your mounting list of life admin and venture outwards into the ether for a misanthropic wine a plenty. It’s the Black Books pub quiz at The Duke of Wellington as part of their couch potato themed quiz series. Entry is a meagre £2 but you can win some cold hard real cash if you’re up on your Dylan Moran / Tamsin Greig / Bill Bailey shaped references.
Who are the Heather Brothers? It’s a question that’s been keeping me up at night. Ever since I was asked to review their latest musical, Holy Crap, I’ve been trapped in something of a Google wormhole. To begin at the beginning: the Heather Brothers are, depending on who you ask, a musical writing duo/trio/quartet. Born in London, they grew up in Zimbabwe, where they spent their teenage years performing in a fraternal rock band. Again, depending on who you ask, they were variously known as: The Chequers, The Three People or Quiet World.
“Arriving back in the UK, after a long time away, there seemed to have been a swing towards xenophobia and the dehumanizing and vilify of both migrants and refugees was happening at the highest levels. I wanted to create a short that would address this trend.” Director Daniel Mulloy
The gin enthusiasts down at Hendricks have decided to take these cucumber celebrations a slice further with their Cultivate the Unusual campaign. Encouraging gin fans to grow their own cucumbers over the last few months in preparation, Hendricks are asking us to bring said veggies to participating pubs and bars this Thursday 15th June. The Canonbury Tavern for example, will light up if you walk in with a cucumber and will proceed to exchange it for a free gin and tonic. Can you imagine?
Hang Up Gallery have some pretty hush hush news. And it goes a little something like this: Darryl ‘Run’ DMC McDaniels will be popping up in the Stoke Newington gallery this month to launch his new collection of works, The Art of DMC. This is the icon’s first London exhibition, showing new and unseen collection of ‘Darryl Makes Comics (DMC)’ Fine Art, a body of signed limited edition prints showcasing his underlying passion for comics.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the original Summer of Love ’67 where freedom of expression, art and love reigned supreme. #ShopStroudGreen are celebrating the fact with a Summer of Love Local weekend festival this June. Celebrate artistic expression and support local independent traders and makers with a weekend of live art, workshops and music (with a few special discounts, tasters and freebies for good measure).
Oh snap! Another general election looms. Whether you’re hopeful for a landslide win or a surprising wild card outcome, wipe the bitter disappointment from your tastebuds with some gins, ales, burgers and strong covfefe. Because let’s face, it will be neither of those results will it really? Find the perfect place for you to receive the bad news in good company.
Get a different perspective on the city you live in this June. Film London are holding a screening of archive footage of London’s outer boroughs through the decades, underscored by live music accompaniment. The best of London’s Screen Archives hugely successful project, London: A Bigger Picture will be shown, funded by Heritage Lottery three years ago.
We caught up with Snowy the Harringay Station cat to talk Twitter, working life and his unsavoury friendship with Gus the fox. Summer is coming and, in North London, that means it’s time to hit the train stations. So we took Snow the Haringey Station Cat and photographer Mike Barry tumbling across one of them: the undergrowth of Haringey Station. Then we sat down with Snowy for a raw conversation about how to move forward after things fall apart.
“You grow it, we mow it” might be their blasé catchphrase, but Rocket’s attitude to your haircut is far from casual. These guys are serious about hair and the person that grew it. Rocket Stoke Newington are holding a day of free beer and entertainment with your cut in aid of Men’s Mental Health Sunday this 12th June. Also known as “Chopping for Chazza”, there’ll be talks on mental health, stand up comedy and more from 12 - 5pm.
Unless you’re already working for charity or regularly ‘do your bit’, that £6 monthly donation to The Dogs Trust might not be doing enough to quash your conscience / save the world. Whether you’re doing it for experience, to reset your karmic balance or generally give back and help out, there’ll be a role out there for you. On the Volunteer Centre Camden’s website for example, there’s a handy search page that lets you filter through hundreds of opportunities by location, interest and activity.
Currently showing at Camden People’s Theatre, performance artist Tom Marshman’s play Kings Cross (Remix) is a glorious celebration of a bygone era. The show is a tightly crafted journey through the stories of some of the people who made up the 1980s Kings Cross LGBTQ scene. Bursting with warmth, charm and affection, the play is a must see for anyone interested in learning more about London’s alternative history.
The Londoner behind 'Strong and Stable My Arse'. It’s a simple message. A slogan that’s straight to the point. 'Strong and Stable My Arse’ is a statement everyone can understand with a wry grin as they spot it slathered onto billboards, phone boxes and brick walls around the UK. So who could possibly be behind such a simple, cheeky, dig in the ribs campaign? Someone who knows his audience, who knows the mindset of the British like the back of his left hand.