Category Archives: Guest Blog

Souperstar: Ayten Gasson

Back in the summer of 2016, we had an amazing soup evening at the lovely Revival Café at Emmaus. At the end of the evening a couple of women – Ayten and Joe – came over to say how much they really enjoyed the whole evening and wanted to help.

Ayten wanted to donate a box of luxury goods to our next raffle,  and Joe wanted to cook us some delicious soup. And true to their word, they did – and have many times since!

Recently we spoke to them about why they wanted to get involved. In a few weeks we will hear from Joe, but first up is Ayten. Ayten runs the Ayten Gasson boutique, which sells ethical luxury items.

I first heard about Brighton Soup through a very good friend of mine who had been before and spoke passionately about it. I now regularly attend and prepare a raffle prize for each event for my own little way of supporting the cause. My friend now actually prepares soup for the night so she, along with the whole Brighton Soup community, is really quite inspirational!

There are a number of things I love about the event but something that really stands out for me is the clear empathy and commitment of those involved. It shows us that there are people out there who want to make things better and lend a helping hand. With so much uncertainty and, frankly, terrible things going on in the world right now it’s comforting to know that there are good people who want to get involved and do what they can for their community.

As the owner of my company and boutique I love to see other independent business owners taking the time to support people trying to get an idea off the ground. They are all so supportive, whether that means volunteering, donating or just simply attending.

I’m originally from London and started my business there but I can’t think of anywhere else I would have wanted to open my boutique. It is a bit of a cliché but Brighton does have a certain feel about the place and I’ve definitely felt support from the wide range of independent businesses we have in the city.

As a parent I’m always interested in any projects and ideas presented at the soup nights that concern or involve children and also, as someone runs a creative business, I’m always impressed by anyone using their creativity to help others.

Brighton Soup is a great way to help the community and get inspired at the same time. Everyone is so dedicated to what they do that you can’t help but come away wanting to do more.

The ‘Ayten Gasson Boutique’ can be found at 32A Bath Street, or online at www.aytengasson.com

Ayten has once again donated a raffle prize for our upcoming event (Friday 28th September at All Saints, Hove) Quick link for tickets here!

 

View from the Galley Kitchen

If you’ve been to soup before, then you know the grub is delicious. You might even chatted with Peter, our boss of all things kitchen. We asked him about his view of our events:

I’m Peter (the kitchen) and I got caught by the press gang. Not for the first time! My last job started with a few beers followed by 2 months floating about in the North Sea. After 10 years of that kind of thing I managed to scrabble back to shore. Then I got involved with BrightonSoup. OK, at least this time “the gang” were my friends.

I’ve come to love Soup. It’s a great idea, and such a win-win. An amazing value night out, and great for the pitchers who get to interact with people who want to be involved with things that are going on in their neighbourhood. I mean, look at it like this. One can have a good time dancing, eating out, or going to the pictures. At Soup, you could hear something or meet someone that inspires you to do new things, explore new avenues. It could even change your life.

For me it has been a great opportunity to meet and work with new people. Lizzie is one of our talented chefs, who spends much of her life doing charitable work of one kind or another. She is a fantastic organizer and not only is she absolutely invaluable in the kitchen but also brings her artistic flair with her – that is why the bread and extras are often arranged so nicely, instead of just made into piles by a nerdy techie like me. She is an amazing cook (I’m lucky enough to have been for dinner) and makes our famous Clam Chowder.

Our chefs Tom and Sam also help out when they can make it – in the kitchen and serving people soup. Tom has made a business out of soup (The Soup Dept) and Sam has been on MasterChef. With people like these helping out it’s not surprising the soups are so good. We also hope the service is 🙂

And it is great meeting our customers too. At the first few events we used to line up bowls behind labels (I said I was a techie) because we were anxious about how long it would take to serve everyone. Then we did a venue where we were didn’t have space so we had to serve people individually. It didn’t take any longer and it was so much nicer to interact with our guests, have a quick chat while we’re serving, help them decide the soup etc. We’ve kept it that way ever since.

Being in the kitchen I often don’t get to pay much attention to the pitches on the night. It is the busiest time, making sure the soup is ready to serve as soon as they finish. But more often than not I get to meet them before the event, either to talk through the process or at pitch-training sessions. I always want them all to win. But even those who don’t often tell us they have got something invaluable, just from being there.

Soup has certainly changed me. Two years ago there would have been no way on Earth I’d have walked up the high street, gone into a shop and asked for something free for a raffle. Now I do that kind of thing. It has been amazing to meet people doing stuff in their community. Not just celebs on the telly, real people doing real stuff. And never before have I had the opportunity to wash up 100 soup bowls at 10-o-clock at night, that’s been just great too. OK, I could maybe ditch that one, but thankfully there’s been plenty of help!

I’ve always loved doing new things. Maybe that’s why I’m such a sucker for the press gang.

Peter

Team Soup

Souper times – what a year ! Reflections of a Business Connector

This last year we’ve had the pleasure of working with Mike Wardill, our local Business Connector with Business in the Community. Mike’s been a great soup supporter helping us and introducing us to some lovely  people in our city. His secondment is over so we invited him to tell us about his year:

“My year is nearly up as a Business Connector with BITC and so very different from my role in my seconding organisation Lloyds Banking Group.  

I have met some truly great people over the past year and a common theme amongst those people is a passion for the community and getting things done ! Will and Karin are two such people who I met early on in my year after I saw posters around Kemp Town for BrightonSoup at St Georges.

Caz O’Kane introduced me (a long time supporter with kids in tow at all of the Soups !) and was taken with the great concept to come out of Detroit USA. How simple it is and makes such a difference…

In this role I have met lots of people from both the business and the community world and during the course of my secondment when an opportunity came up; I connected these organisations, business to business, business to community and community to community. ‘How can I help ?’ I asked Will and KarIn.

‘We would love to have a Soup over in Moulsecoomb, a part of the City we haven’t been to yet’ they said. And so we took it to The Bridge…

The lovely Sam Courtney at The Bridge Community Centre kindly agreed to host Soup 7 and last September a great night was had by all – both soup and pitches. How you chose the winner from all the great stories but the winner was – The Hummingbird Project helping local people to adopt migrant children from Calais.

Soup 8 at Community Base in Brighton was another great evening and brilliant to spend some time with Caroline Lucas, another Soup fan. Great soup, great pitches, great music from Birte Paulsen & Paul Diello, and the winners were Rohan and Chloe from SPEAKOUT with their pop quiz on the issues people with learning disabilities face.

 

It was fun to sit on the pitch selection committee for Soup 9 recently – what a difficult job that was. Lots of discussion – only wish we could get them all on ! Am sure it will be another great evening!

Been great to spread the word around the BITC Connector teams across the country which has inspired and got some other Soups started. The Soup is spilt and  word spreads…

So now I am hooked on Soup ! The journey is not over…

Look forward to many more Soups.”

Mike Wardill

Thanks, Mike, we’ll miss you!

bitc

Soup & Students

Last year one of our guests, Sarah Gibbons, asked us about doing a special BrightonSoup event at the Student’s Union at Sussex University. It was something we’d been thinking of and so jumped at the opportunity. We asked Sarah if she would talk about why this was important to her:

“My first Brighton Soup event was in February of 2016 at Community Base. A colleague of mine from Sussex University Student’s Union had told me about this wonderful community event and invited me to come along with her. I had a great evening and loved being part of an event that was bringing people together and making great things happen. The soup was delicious too!

Brighton Soup is a brilliant example of the power of communities and I always leave the events with a warm glow and a love of Brighton and all the people in it.

As Society and Citizenship Officer at the Students’ Union at Sussex University I am elected in order to represent students in matters relating to active citizenship, community engagement as well as ethical and environmental action. Approximately 15% of the community in Brighton are full-time students and we have a voice and a part to play in our community. The Students’ Union believes that the relationship between students and the community should be one of mutual respect, cooperation and learning, and students should be empowered to lead on activities to work with community partners to bring about positive change.

The idea of hosting a Brighton Soup on campus, with students pitching their ideas seemed a perfect way of bringing students and the local community together, especially as these two groups can often seem quite disjointed. As a students’ union our role is to facilitate opportunities and activities for students to represent themselves and participate in their community. By hosting this event we hope to be able to support students in their ideas and help them make Brighton and Hove a great place to live.

We’re hoping that this event will give students the platform to pitch their ideas as well as giving them the support from the SU to make their ideas happen. We believe students should feel themselves to be and to be seen by others as part of the community. We hope that it will provide an opportunity for students and residents to come together, learn from each other and build new relationships.

Thank you to Brighton Soup for these wonderful events and I can’t wait to see what comes from this special edition!”

Sarah Gibbons
Society and Citizenship Officer

You can find out details of the special event here.

And you can get more info on students in our city here:
Brighton and Hove Connected (2016). Brighton & Hove City Snapshot

 

An Event Like No Other – Nick Cross of The Reveals Festival

Nick Cross from St. John’s School and College pitched at BrightonSoup back in spring of last year. To think that was nearly a year ago already! So he’s back to tell us allll about it..

“It feels just like yesterday that my colleague Lucy, St. John’s learner Charlie, his support worker Martin and I attended Brighton Soup in April 2016.

It was an event like no other, from our projects conception to being up on stage pitching to win funding à la Dragon’s Den, this was an experience we treasured.

Our project was to seek funding for the Creative Arts festival1Tent at the St. John’s School and College Reveals Festival. This event described as a ‘mini Glastonbury’ was to celebrate St. John’s, a learning disability charities, 130th Anniversary. Part of the celebration was to create a learning disability-friendly music, art and film festival. Many of our learners, due to their complex disabilities, would never get the chance to attend or perform in a festival due to the many risks these mainstream events possess so we thought…let’s bring the festival to them!

After much planning, prepping and panicking we had the idea locked down and approached the wonderful people at BrightonSoup to see if our project met their helpfully broad application criteria.

Having been accepted we tentatively attended pitch night in The Crypt of Kemptown’s impressive St. George’s Church. We didn’t know what to expect and as we entered were hit by a delicious smell of soup and the smiles of friendly faces.

It was an extremely relaxed, yet professional affair with 3 other amazing projects also pitching for support. We thought, perhaps arrogantly, our project was the most likely to capture imaginations and although nervous made an earnest effort detailing The Reveals Festival when it was our turn.

“We received a wonderful response from the room and although we didn’t win gained volunteer support, food support and vital equipment that helped bring the festival together.”

festival-2

 

Despite not receiving the funding we don’t regret a moment of it. St. John’s made wonderful contacts who to this day support our work in a multitude of ways and the 2 day festival went off without a hitch.

 

We cannot thank Brighton Soup enough for their innovation, support and chance to improve the lives of our learners. We hope to attend more events in the future and know that this community inspiring idea will stand the test of time.

You can check out videos of our learners performing and just how much fun was had at the festival on our Facebook page.”

Nick Cross, St. John’s School and College

One Hell of a Souper Time

One of our newbie turned regulars Jessie, gives us a little taster of why she loves Soup.

“I have attended two BrightonSoup events now, both of which have offered completely different pitches, different vibes and of course… different soups. If I could use one word to sum up my BrightonSoup experience so far it would be ‘Inspirational’.

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I was a little apprehensive before I went to my first Soup; I did not know what to expect. The concept sounded super interesting, however part of me felt slightly daunted about attending something completely unknown. How wrong could I have been? From the moment I stepped foot through the door I was immediately consumed by the hub of noise and energy that filled the room. A room full of strangers, sat shoulder to shoulder supporting their community, eagerly awaiting the first pitch to begin. There was also live music and food provided – what more could you want??

“By the end of the first event, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be going to the next one.”

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My second BrightonSoup was even more amazing (although I am a little disappointed that I didn’t buy the first ticket to get the free box of chocolates). The pitches tugged on my heart strings, and I may have even shed a tear. You will be surprised at how much you can relate to people’s stories and how being in that room can leave you feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed.

The hard work, commitment and sheer passion which goes into creating and running the evenings is absolutely incredible.”

Jessica

Why Losing Isn’t A Loss – Lucy Stone of Rhythmix

Rhythmix is a music, social welfare and education charity who believe in the power of music to transform peoples lives. Well back in April @ The Crypt event, Lucy Stone pitched for Rhythmix and although they didn’t win the pot of money on the night, they didn’t leave us empty handed. Here’s what Lucy wanted to tell us about the the experience:

“Everyone comes away from BrightonSoup smiling, happy to be part of a community that has supported a charity. But people naturally feel bad that they can’t give to all of the groups who come to Soup. 2016-04-29-204214-#864-AAWell, we’re here to tell you that as a “losing” charity, we came away smiling from Soup too, even if we didn’t get the pot of money on the night.

We presented at BrightonSoup a few months back, with the aims of getting computers or money for tech in our office. As a charity, we work to transform the lives of vulnerable people through music. We make music with children in hospitals, older people with dementia and things like supporting young people who’ve been excluded from school in getting their first qualification.

But, as a grant funded charity, our funders don’t like us spending money on some of the basic things we need when we could be putting that money towards helping more people 2016-04-29-191842-#858-CDAmake music. We do understand why, but this led to a dire state of our office equipment. We had outdated computers, screaming laptops and broken keyboards. It was impossible to work when our PC’s would crash 10 times a day, or there was no delete key on a keyboard. We may have been at the cutting edge of music education, but our office was stuck in the past.

At soup we asked for support for new technology.
But we got so much more!

Thank you to everyone who’s helped to transform our day-to-day lives and ability to support our transformational work.

One generous Souper bought us a brand-new laptop! This has been a massive asset, and means we can now be much more efficient. This is our favourite thing for skype meetings, now 2016-04-29-213130-#982-CDA #editedthat we could replace the laptop that would screech if you moved the mouse pad whilst on skype.

Someone else gave us five used laptops that they no longer had use for. This has transformed our office, meaning there are now enough laptops per member of staff and we can work without any blue screens of death.

The great news is that the screeching laptop and other obsolete things went on to another charity. Jamies reuse and refurbish what they can and use them for training and volunteering opportunities for socially excluded adults.

And people also donated monitors! Combining these with the laptops means we now can have multi-screen set ups, working more efficiently than ever. This was incredibly generous and so helpful. Now we don’t hurt our eyes when we plan our sessions.

Ruby was also at BrightonSoup that night, supporting her mum whose project won the pot of money that night. Ruby decided to come volunteer for us, and has become an invaluable part of the team. She’s done everything from running our social media, fundraising, web design and more. Thank you to Ruby for coming to volunteer with us in the office.

In addition, when Matt and the team at Natural Balance asked the organisers of BrightonSoup about some projects he could fundraise for, Matt and his team chose to fundraise for us! Running 10 miles they raised over £1,000 for our dementia work: enough for four sessions. Thank you to Matt, Mark, James, Davide, Lisa, Seth, Nathalie, Natasha, Peter and Emily for running for us, and thank you to Soup organiser Will for putting Matt in touch with us.

From Matt’s fundraising, his friend Marcia has chosen to fundraise at her staged reading of Miss Everdene, based on Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd at Hove Methodist 2016-04-29-183753-817-cdaChurch at 7:30pm on the 25th of November. How much will this fundraise? We don’t know, but we know it’s money that without heading to Soup we wouldn’t have had before.

We’ve been humbled by seeing in action what can happen when a community comes together – they can do incredible things. An evening of soup and chatter led to us being faster, quicker, and better staffed because people reached out to us. This means we can help more people, and make a bigger difference in our community.

So, thank you to all Soupers and those who reached out to us. Next time you can’t vote for someone, know that maybe you have helped in another way just by being a part of the community.”

Lucy Stone
Strategic Director
Rhythmix

28th October 2016