Hello! I’m Dot and I’ve been involved in the Community Oven since March last year so this introduction really is long overdue….

I’m originally a Yorkie and have traveled and lived in a few other countries thanks to the opportunity to study languages. I lived in Turin, northern Italy and I love Italian family culture and the way that streets, fields, any public area can be commandeered to host a party.

On a holiday to a village on Lake Como we saw a poster advertising a community dinner and dance. It took place in a little park overlooking the lake with trestle tables round the edge, strings of lights, a bar, a kitchen and couples got up and danced in the middle. We rather awkwardly sat at the side and the family on the next table decided to befriend us. We chatted all night, were invited to theirs for dinner the next night and are still in touch 5 years later.

I’m lucky to have lots of food stories where eating with strangers has made me feel really welcome. Going further back in time, as a kid growing up in York we had some amazing street parties! I remember them clearly, long tables down the street, activities, good food and the excitement of, for just one day, having the run of the big empty street with no cars! We used to invite other people, friends and family that lived near by and because we were close to town, strangers joined us too.

It was all pretty English, one was for the 50th anniversary of VE day, there were crafts for the children, we made a skip into a tank, one neighbour, Jim, had a collection of old bikes and a side car that we got rides in, there was Maypole dancing…. We had other parties too, an arts and crafts day, a Winter Wassail essentially a freezing cold street BBQ with a big bowl of punch and some folk music and others. It didn’t really matter what the theme was, they were all awesome and I totally took them for granted.

I’ve never lived anywhere since where there’s been a street party. When I first moved down South I was living in a village near Horsham and isolated and at times lonely. There weren’t many places you could easily meet people so I was lucky that my landlady who I lived with and my work colleagues, were so welcoming but this isn’t always the norm in rural areas, or urban areas for that matter. Many of those we live around are alone. This is an epidemic that is growing in the UK. From a personal point of view I find this really hard to take in. I’m one of those horrendous neighbours who comes straight round when you move in and persistently tries to make conversation in the street at probably inconvenient times… But I also recognise that’s not right for everyone and there’s a need for places where we can meet and mix and feel comfortable.

So it’s time we worked out how to create more of these places! Enter: Community Oven! Last year we ran street parties, for free, just to see what would happen and they were great. This year we’d like to go further, run events, street parties and more to continue to spread our love of food and people. But we’d like your help again. Do you have a great idea? Would you like to have a go at running an activity or just volunteer and help us out? Let us know what you think of all of this, especially if you’d like to share your street parties stories past or present!

Nice to meet you all! Dot 🙂

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