Thomasina Miers and Laura Harper-Hinton are tackling the unused spaces in our primary schools, starting with the Fork to Fork Food Festival in Kensal Rise
As a West London resident, co-founder of Wahaca Thomasina Miers found herself disheartened by the unused space that she kept passing at Ark Franklin Primary Academy in Kensal Rise. Not one to step away from a challenge, Miers teamed up with Caravan co-founder Laura Harper-Hinton to delve deeper into the issues facing our country in regards to these spaces and what effects this has on children and their education.
The result of the research means that here in Notting Hill we are extremely lucky, as in aid of awareness and funding, Fork to Fork Food Festival will take place on 11 June, with the money going towards creating an open-air classroom at the school – the first of its kind in the UK.
So, how did it all come about from this small seed of thought? ‘I found out that the school was in special measures before the Ark Academy took it over, so I thought maybe I could approach them about doing something with the space,’ Miers says.
‘I emailed the incoming Head the summer before she started and we had a chat that led to designing a garden at the school.’ Now that plans have moved along, Miers tells me the outside space will also open to the public and will be a place where children can learn the curriculum in a creative environment, whilst engaging with nature.
I emailed the incoming Head the summer before she started and we had a chat that led to designing a garden at the school
‘We found in a study by the UN’s children’s agency conducted in 2007 that Britain ranked bottom out of 21 developed countries for child welfare and third from the bottom for educational standards,’ explains Miers.
Quite scarily, a lack of contact with nature is impeding children’s mental and physical development and according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the likelihood of a child visiting any sizeable outside green space has halved in a generation. The idea for the garden is that it is a tool for learning: ‘It’s about making children resilient and giving them back those life-skills that make them work ready.’ They aim to benchmark it so that they can show its impact in this school.
The next step was to secure funding and awareness for the cause, and what better way to celebrate nature with an award-winning chef than to put on a street food festival focused around the concept of garden to fork.
‘My PR company put me in touch with Laura. I was already involved in an auction dinner at The Dock Kitchen that raised £50,000 for the garden, but Laura was really excited by the project and said that she could take charge of the festival.’ Fork to Fork is the perfect event to help raise awareness, whilst also creating an inspirational day out with family-friendly fun and great food from London’s best restaurants and chefs along the way.
The 2016 festival is much larger than last year and some of the biggest names in the city are confirmed. ‘We have the River Café coming who you don’t normally see at food festivals; we have the guys from Gymkhana coming too. We have 42 top London restaurants coming along to cook,’ says Miers. ‘We also have two music stages and a wine area,’ adds Harper-Hinton. Last year about 4,000 people attended the festival, but this year they are expecting to sell up to 5,000 tickets.
‘We’ve decided to focus on the festival as we feel it’s the best way to raise awareness for the cause,’ says Harper-Hinton. ‘We are going to be representing a lot of artisanal brands, as we are definitely trying to celebrate those doing something creative and particularly those doing it locally.’ After all, it’s the creative subjects that are suffering the most from the lack of communication with nature in education.
What is obvious is the overwhelming sense of community that accompanies this festival, something that is clearly at the heart of this project. Miers is so passionate about the cause, she’d even like it if her impending child would refrain from arriving until after the date!
‘I’m due a few days before the festival,’ she laughs. ‘And I’m so, so excited to meet the baby, but I’d quite like it to hold on until after the festival so I can still be there!’ Let’s hope the children of Notting Hill are just as excited to join in, and learn just how important the outside world is. From garden fork to utensil and everything in-between, this festival is sure to entice us to get outside whatever the weather.
For further details and to buy tickets see franklinforktofork.com