Victoria Burton, Vic to most people has created Folkestone soup in 2015. She was inspired by the soup of Detroit. Someone invited all their friends to share some soup and their ideas for improving their small corner of the city. Since 2010 their soup has raised over $120000 for start up projects and 15000 people have attended since it began. Soups now happen all over America and in the UK.
Vic: I am a teacher and I have lived in Folkestone with my family since 2007. One day I read about the ‘Soup’ initiative and thought it might transfer well to a town like Folkestone. I approached Alex MacLaren to join me and now lots of people help in some way, from advertising to soup making and sponsorship. We are sponsored by Church and Dwight and also by Troo Granola, both local businesses, who help us out with hire of the hall and soup ingredients.
© Alex MacLaren
What is it? The format is simple; you pay a nominal fee to enter, Four ‘pitchers’ put forward their ideas for improving the town. They have four minutes each, no power point or flash visual aids, and then they can expect up to four questions from the floor. They can suggest anything, at any scale as long as it improves the area in some social, economic or environmental way. At the end we eat soup and vote for our favourite. The winner gets the money from the door to help them start. Entry is £5 for adults and £1 for a child, (they get a vote worth one fifth of an adult vote). You get soup but bring your own drinks. All are welcome. The more people we get through the door, the more we can help the winner make a success of their project.
© Alex MacLaren
A vote of confidence ? It is different to other community projects in that this is as much about encouraging innovation and self help as anything else. We do not demand success. Our pitchers should not fear failure. We only ask that they take responsibility for their ideas and try. This is not about ‘someone should’. This is about ‘I will’. The money that a winner receives is not huge. Often it barely scratches the surface of their needs, but it is a vote of confidence from a group of people who are happy to invest a little of their own cash to someone’s community cause.
Connecting people ? The atmosphere is very supportive. In reality, it is common for many of our pitchers to leave with valuable contacts or assistance that make their project possible even if they don’t ‘win’. We run three times a year and previous winners are encouraged to return and tell us how they’re getting on with their idea.
Pitches ? Pitches have varied hugely, from community housing projects to greening of public areas, a community apple press, lego workshops, a mobile comic factory, grocery collectives, giant animated puppets for the St George’s day parade and most recently, a project to ease the transition for children moving up to secondary school.
Futur ? Folkestone soup is all about participation, often for those who have never done anything like this before. We make small steps but positive ones nonetheless. We really hope that Folkestone soup can continue to grow but this isn’t about empire building. It is fun and, we hope, it makes a small but persistent difference to the community we live in.