How do you fit a room around a table?

We thought it was about time that we all sat round a table and talked about the food issues that everyone else is already talking about!


As we all know, the best way to get people together, ironically, is to provide a table and get cooking! So that’s what we’re doing on the 12th March.


Artists, local politicians, people at the sharp end of food provision in Blackpool, as well as some people who are public health professionals, will all gather together to share ideas and experiences. Tall order!


The table that we’ll be sitting round has been specially commissioned by LeftCoast and artist Jai Redman will be blogging about it here in the coming weeks. The design will definitely stimulate the conversation, let’s put it that way.


The only slight problem we have is that the table may actually end up being bigger than the room…it might end up as a good old fashioned street party the way we’re going. Is it sunny in Blackpool in March?!

Food Banks in the News (again)

Thought we’d share a few links to stories relating to food banks. We’ll be posting a lot more of these I fear…


Manchester Evening News reports how food banks are not the answer to food poverty.

The Guardian report on the return of rickets to the UK as poor families can’t afford fresh fruit and veg.

Luciana Berger in The Independent slams Michael Gove for his ignorant comments on why people use food banks.

“an entire generation is being destroyed by a diet of junk food and sugary drinks” This report on the BBC website.

A stencil for Streetlife

After a few visits and getting to know the good people of Streetlife, we were asked if we’d like to help out with their mural project. Something, it was felt by staff, was needed to make the area by the Centre’s bins a bit nicer!

Not that the outside of the place is particularly grotty anyway, its been recently turned into quite a nice garden. But everyone feels that it needs something of a statement, an artwork.

Graffiti is the order of the day (very popular is street art in Blackpool) and although it’s not exactly why we’re here, we have the skills and are willing to give it a shot. Anyway, here is the design for our bread stencil.

Our stencil for the Streetlife centre - got a bit of a thing about Hovis at the moment!

Our stencil for the Streetlife centre – got a bit of a thing about Hovis at the moment!


Welcome To The Base

A recent engagement exercise (not carried out by Engine we hasten to add!) asked the people who use Blackpool’s Streetlife Centre – The Base, what was important to them about the drop in centre that helps young people at risk in the city. They drew this doodle. When we saw it we were really struck by the central image – outstretched arms offering bread and water. Sometimes it feels like nothing has changed in centuries, even in supposedly developed wealthy countries like England. People who have nothing and need help never ask for much. When they have to seek charity, what they need is things that are a basic human right: shelter, the company of others, bread and water.

this is what users of Blackpool's Streetlife Base drew about the centre, what was important to them: bread and water.

this is what users of Blackpool’s Streetlife Base drew about the centre, what was important to them: bread and water.

Fish Fingers…..but for how long!

Do you remember the old Bird’s Eye fish finger ads on TV?  I used to love watching the old sea Captain as a kid. Jai told me that ‘Bird’s Eye’ focus on advertizing chicken dippers now……… Cod must be getting very expensive as we continue to catch it and eat it to oblivion.

I wrote this about one of my own favourite dishes some time ago…………


Dead on my plate,
A cod or at least a slab of one,
Not the head nor the tail but the loin,
coated in beef dripping.
Vinegar and salt on it,
my cod, my fish from the ocean,
The Atlantic, vast, cold and deadly.
Taken by a man in a boat, in huge waves,
his life on the line but he brought it back for me,
my cod, or at least my slice of it.
Gutted, boned and fried.


On The Dole

Seeing as, almost inevitably, a project I am involved in relating to food has brought up the subject of bread and beer, it seems appropriate to record here the ancient English tradition of ‘Wayfarer’s Dole‘. Growing up as I did near Winchester in Hampshire I might have known about this sooner, but it wasn’t until I ended up living outside on the hillside above The Hospital of St. Cross (during the 1990’s protests against the M3 Extension through Twyford Down) that it was drawn to my attention. If you call at the Porter’s Lodge and ask for Dole, they’ll give you a small piece of bread and a little cup of beer, the cup is traditionally made from horn. This early form of charity or alms for poor travellers used to delight us ‘Eco-Warriors’ and we’d always be popping down and introducing others to the free offerings. Helping those in need, with a small portion of something you have in abundance. Call it ‘dole’ or ‘welfare’ or ‘handouts’ is something people have quietly done without judgement in England since before the country was even called that. IMG_0660.JPG

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Food or Phone?

So today we’re back in Blackpool and we spent some time with Darren who is homeless. Yesterday he didn’t receive his £46 weekly benefit “there’s a fault at our end” he was informed. Last week Darren had a dilemma, he’d ran out of money and was starving, he decided he had no option but to pawn his most vital possession, his mobile phone. Darren has another 2 weeks to raise the £40 to get his phone back. Darren generously let us share his poem about his experiences at the job centre………the discarded bread roll grabbed our attention around the corner from Pizza Express……………

bread roll found on the steps of the Winter Gardens, Blackpool

bread roll found on the steps of the Winter Gardens, Blackpool

Baked beans sausage cheese on toast

Great lunch with the lads and lasses at Street Life Blackpool. This followed an hour spent with Beverly, who runs the Salvation Army Bridge project in Blackpool (in an architectural gem / ex grammar school building).
Something surreal about being in Blackpool in the middle of summer, with a glut of cafés, food stalls, candy floss, etc available seemingly from every retail space, and yet every town the streets are populated with people that struggle to put food on the table, or simply can’t afford to eat. How is it that we’ve ended up with a First World Food Crisis?
We’re looking forward to working with the people we met today, and the ones we’ll meet later, to look into this issue more closely.