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THOMASINA MIERS ON THE FORK TO FORK FESTIVAL

Friends Thomasina Miers, MasterChef winner and co-founder of Wahaca, and Laura Harper-Hinton, co-founder and creative director of Caravan all-day restaurants, have come together to launch the first Fork to Fork Food Festival, taking place on Saturday 13 June at ARK Franklin Primary Academy in Kensal Rise, with the aim to raise funds in support of the school’s Open Air Classroom project

Stalls will be manned by chefs from Hix, Ottolenghi, Koya, Soho House, Polpo, Caravan and Caravan Coffee Roasters, E&O, Moro, Union Street Café, Granger & Co, Gracelands Cade, The Shop, The Whippet Inn, Fed By Lillie and Gail’s Bakery – plus food trucks from Wahaca, Dirty Burger, The Bowler and Young’s. We speak to Thomasina about how important the bigger message is.

What initially inspired the Fork to Fork Food Festival?

There was a school on the corner of my road that I always noticed when taking my kids to the park because it had an amazing outside space. Two years ago I heard it was being taken over by ARK Schools, so I became really interested as I had heard good things about ARK. I went online to find out some more details about the school and the Headteacher who was incoming [Bethan Thomas], and I wrote to her that we should do something with the amazing outdoor space. She replied ‘definitely, come in and see me’, so we started talking about it then.

What do you make of the idea behind an Open Air Classroom?

It’s great and it has got a wider remit than just the one school. It’s about how you can teach children more creatively in an outside space. So many studies have been done that children take in more when taught outdoors.

Did you have much opportunity to learn in the great outdoors as a child?

I had a grandmother in Wales and grandparents who lived in Gloucester. In Wales, my grandmother was a model by trade, but she was into cream and butter and cheese. She was a firm believer in exercise, so we went on big walks outdoors. I used to love trekking to the old castles. My other grandparents grew their own veg and were always eating the things that they produced. My childhood was shaped by being outdoors and I am a firm believer today of being outside. At home we grow our own veg. My two and four-year-olds love eating rocket and inviting friends over, who eat things from the ground and think it’s amazing! Everybody should have access to that, even if a school has a tiny outside space, you can do something creatively with it. ARK have been very open with sharing the space with other schools. They are having gardening classes there, but it’s right at the beginning of the project, so I am excited. The festival is a way of telling people about it.

Has the response from those in the food and drink industry been good?

It’s amazing. If you think the festival is basically a school fete, the calibre of restaurants we have got involved is extraordinary.

What do you think children will pick up from being able to grow their own food?

They are learning. They are being taught maths, science, languages, the arts – all the core curriculum subjects. You can teach science through looking at growing plants and photosynthesis, for example. There’s so much you can weave into it. Look at Alice Waters in America – she has launched 100 schools in the Edible Schoolyard Project. It’s great to push that kind of message forward and make it happen. If schools in every borough can do something like this, the benefits would be huge.

Do you think there’s enough opportunity for children to learn to cook these days?

Yes I do. Most eight-year-olds are hooked on MasterChef, which is a form of learning to cook. We want to get kids involved as early as possible. I don’t really buy into ‘this is children’s food, this is grown-up food’ – give children grown-up food! They should be having fresh veg, and they love it too. If you feed a child fish fingers and chicken nuggets, they get used to it and that’s all they will eat.

Were you into your food when at St Paul’s Girls School?

I have been cooking since the age of six. I always loved cooking. I would earn my pocket money by cooking dinner parties from the age of 14. So it was outside school really, but St Paul’s are now running cookery classes and societies, which is amazing. But cooking should be a part of everyday education, learning the basics of how to feed yourself.

What kind of pupil were you?

Naughty, but good… A mix. Enthusiastic… And cheeky!

Fork to Fork Festival will be held on Saturday 13 June at ARK Franklin Primary Academy in Kensal Rise from 12-6pm. Tickets are now available at franklinforktofork.com for £5 pre-sale tickets (£8 on the day), and children under 12 go free

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