That's not a typo in the title, despite what my word processor is constantly telling me! Bludy fing. It refers to an event we went to on Wednesday 20th September 2017 at the fabulous Arc in Stockton-on-Tees. The 'Soup' isn't a local idea, or even a new one. It’s a concept which started in Detroit, where the project began as a monthly citywide dinner in 2010. That idea grew and there now 'Soups' taking place in cities and town around the world.
What that looks like in reality is four community groups stand-up in front of an audience who have donated money to attend. Each project has 4 minutes to pitch their idea, project or organisation. Once they're all done, everyone retires to vote for which idea they like the best, mingle and yes, eat soup! The money collected then gets distributed to the those pitching in relation to the number of votes collected. Get 10% of the votes, get 10% of the total money donated with Stockton Soup matching the funding. There's also a bit of live music for good measure! Brilliantly simple and simply brilliant.
We're lucky to have a couple of Soup's local to us, although, we're shamed to say, we'd never attended until now. The Stockton SOUP was our first experience, but it won't be our last. Their goal is to promote community-based development through crowd funding, creativity, collaboration, democracy and fun. Who couldn't get behind that concept!
Once we'd found our seat, it was time for a little live music from the fantastic Ellis Rayner who had to hit the ground running. Nothing like doing a sound-check and tune-up in front of the audience! He did brilliantly and sounded great. It was then onto the main business of the night... the pitches!
We were pitching in third place after the good people from SNAPS (Special Needs Activities with Parent's Support), Acorn but before Safe Families for Children. Three fantastic projects that are all striving to help the people of Stockton. The audience were going to have their work cut out. As we said, the best thing about the soup is that everyone gets something, so we were all going home with some much needed funds to help our own communities no matter what happened.
I have to say I wasn't nervous, but I was anxious (what's new) getting up to talk. I only had 4 minutes to get across everything I wanted to say. 4 minutes might not sound like a long time, but if you just sit and do nothing for 4 minutes, you'll soon realise it feels like a lifetime. The other people pitching seemed to be there for about 30 minutes, but I felt like I was only up there for about 30 seconds. Time's a funny old thing! Everyone laughed in the right place and no-one heckled, so we'll call that a win! Time will tell, how much of a 'win' it proved to be.
Once all the pitches were done, it was time to break out and let the voting begin. We had lots of fantastic conversations during this time and met some really great contacts who are already working in Stockton and we look forward to following those up over the next week. Another brilliant aspect of the Soup that brings people from all areas together to create something amazing.
This particular Soup was their 1st anniversary. The fantastic team had been running these events for a year, so we were delighted to be part of such a special occasion. All the previous winners from previous Soups were invited back. It was fantastic to see them all gathered on stage at once. It just goes to show what a great impact these community projects are having in our area and how much the local community has supported each and every one of them.
With soup eaten, which was amazing by the way (all credit to the team from No. 60 and our good friends from the Labyrinth Holistic Cafe for the bread - can't have soup without bread can you!) it was time for the results.
As we mentioned, everyone would get something from the night, the question everyone was wanting to know was just how much! To be honest, just being able to talk about our project to a theatre of people who may never have heard of us before would have been enough.
If, just doing that, would have got a few more people coming along to our groups then it would have been worth it. To enable us (and the other pitchers) to receive some much needed funds from it on top of that, was the icing on the cake (mmmmm, cake!).
The four of us were assembled back on stage in order of appearance. After the first two, I was trying to do some mental (or Men Tell) arithmetic to try and work out what our vote would be. I was amazed, I mean genuinely AMAZED) to hear we'd garnered 47% of the vote! Nearly half of the people there voted for us! Unbelievable! We're going to be taking home £551.78. It was the most money they'd ever given away at any event. Thank you to everyone who voted!
To be able to walk away, literally, with a cheque for that amount of money means the absolute world to us. Dan and I were still talking about the next night! Thank you (again) so much to everyone who voted for us and those of you who wished us well throughout the night. We'll make sure we honour the faith you've shown in us and continue to make Stockton a fantastic place to be for all the blokes out there.
I was just wanted to say a huge thank you to my wife Jacqueline, my son Ben, partner-in-MenTell Dan and John (and daughter) for coming along specifically to support us on the night. I'm assuming they voted for us! If not, forget all of that last bit ;-)
Finally, last but not least, a HUGE thank you to all the people from Stockton Soup for inviting us along and to all of them for putting on a great show. You're all doing a cracking job and if there's anything we can do in the future to help, please let us know. I'll wear my new T-shirt with pride!
The next Soup in Stockton is on 22nd November 2017, again at the Arc and we'll be there. We won't be pitching, but we will be there supporting 4 more brilliant organisations who are doing great things in our communities. Hopefully we'll see you there. If not, there may well be a Soup taking place near you. Get yourself along and support those doing great things on your doorstep. Plus soup!
If you want to find out more about the groups we were talking about on the night, then take a look at this page!