I live in a wonderful neighbourhood, one of those that everyone wished they could plan into a house purchase. There’s much to love about this estate, but I think my favourite thing is that we have friends here; not only good neighbours, but friends, and interaction goes well and truly beyond just the friendly wave or the stop for a chat on the street (though there is a lot of that too).
This gorgeous part of Dublin has just held it’s third street feast, and it is becoming a great way to meet the newcomers in the area and to catch up with the ones who have been here since the beginning (coming up to 70 years!) and all those in-between.
Modern life and city planning (or lack of it) mean that it is harder than it used to be to connect with people who live around you, especially if you don’t have children of a certain age; even with children it can be difficult if you aren’t in a neighbourhood where they go out to play. It is this challenge that prompted a group of volunteers to start the Irish Street Feast movement in 2010.
Having a day set aside nationally, with some publicity and support around it, makes planning and producing a street feast or community party definitely easier, but it does not have to be difficult if you don’t have that.
If you long to meet your neighbours, make some friends, reduce loneliness around you, or brighten up your corner of the world, consider making your own street feast.
Here are some thoughts that might help get you started:
- find a friend or neighbour to help plan. There are five of us that got together initially, but this year only three of us met beforehand (and gave all the jobs to the other two!) (Just kidding!) – the first time took much more discussion and planning. If you have a neighbourhood watch or residents’ committee, those are obvious places to start. The more people involved from the beginning, the wider the load is spread, the easier it is to publicise, and you have the bones of a street feast with just those organising.
- use a national or local event to hinge your event on, if you can. There were street parties all over England celebrating the 60th anniversary of the queen’s coronation, but it doesn’t have to be anything of such significance. I would avoid holding one on a bank holiday/long weekend, as people usually go away or make other plans, otherwise Sundays seem to be a good day generally, at least in Ireland.
- don’t make it something that it’s not. For instance, we decided not to have it as a fundraiser for anything, even though that can be an easy option. We wanted it just to be a focus on the community and people coming together for a cup of tea, something yummy to eat, and a chat with an old friend or new.
- choose your spot. Is there a local green space or a front garden that is open and accessible? Maybe a couple of driveways side-by-side will do. You don’t want to have to shut down your street, but you want to find somewhere that people feel they can rock on up to, and that is safe for a group to be milling about. Our estate is made of 3 cul-de-sacs, and we’ve held the feast in one that has lovely grassy areas and large trees, and is quiet. Each year we approach whoever’s house(s) it will be in front of and clear it with them.
- make it as easy as possible. We decided on a ‘bring your own chair, mug and finger food to share’ event. This eliminates the need for lots of cutlery, plates and supplying absolutely everything. We got together and listed whatever else we would need, including the tables, a gazebo, bunting and tablecloths to make it pretty. We provided those on the day, along with tea and the means to make it (someone’s garage open near the feast, with a table set up in it, or a extension lead from someone’s home to a tea table). We have so much food left over that we’ve given unopened packages of cakes to charities the next day, plus given away loads of homemade goodies to anyone who will take them.
- spread the word, and if anyone expresses interest or offers to help, grab them. If you have no needs that you can see at that moment, ask them what they would like to do or what they are good at. Maybe they’ll take photos on the day, set up a Facebook event, blow up balloons, or have a connection to someone who can provide tea or tablecloths or posters. We print small invites and have one adult and a lot of kids deliver them to every mailbox. We also set up a Facebook event and ask people in person, but the invites in the letterbox are the best way to get everyone.
- try and remember what works (for next time!). We attempted to hook up some music one year, but it turned out we didn’t really need it: so much chat and laughter! We didn’t need the fairy lights either (so much bright sun!).
- celebrate diversity. This is the perfect time to strike up a conversation with someone you might not normally talk to. This year our feast had Bulgarians, Brazilians, French, Polish, Canadians, and of course Irish, aged 8 weeks to 96 years (the local wonder-woman who brought along two of her legendary tray bakes). A cultural mix of food takes the diversity to a new level.
- Have fun! We do, not only during the feast, but also in the planning, the setting up, and even the clean up (though we all admit that’s the least favourite part). The kids after just one year had traditions set up around it and many of those ‘remember when’ moments that they talk about over and over in the run up to it.
Do you have street parties in your neighbourhoods? I’d love to hear about your celebrations and traditions, wherever you are.
5 thoughts on “Make Your Own Street Feast”
What a lovely way to bring the neighborhood closer together. It works here too, as neighbors love an invite to anything that smacks of a community affair. You can have wonderful fun close to home. The kids love meeting each other as well. And the parents like sitting around either bragging, gossiping, or just shooting the breeze. Pitch-ins seem to be popular here in the US, especially in the summertime. There are neighborhoods everywhere. I always like to say pitch-ins are the best because people usually only bring their best dishes. No one ever says: “I think I’ll bring the worst dish I make to this thing.” I love just sharing what turns out to be: “A great day!”
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Ha! That’s true, isn’t it? Everyone brings their bests and favourites, and that makes such an amazing feast!
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