SOUP! That Is: ColchesterSoup

Hello all!! This is a blog I published July 2016 on my old Wordpress blog. I am reposting some older material on this shiny new blog – but this one bears repeating many times!!! Will add a few new notes at the end. So…

I am writing this blog on my phone, such is my dedication to both blogging and the subject at hand today. Forgive me for any errors, I am used to writing on a keyboard, and to me, part of the writing process is moving about and handling the keyboard much like playing the piano. I have to try a little harder on my phone, as good as it is.

Yesterday, Karen from ColchesterSoup reminded me that it’s been some time since I’ve blogged. Ever the inspiring friend, she often helps me remember what I’d like to do. And I’d like to explain the dedication at the beginning of The Lemay Leveller to ColchesterSoup.

First an explanation for those not in the know: Karen brought @ColchesterSoup to our community. It is a concept tried and tested in Detroit. The idea is simple, if my long winded explanation may be slightly less so.

Three people or groups pitch to win a pot of money. Where does the money come from? From the very people attending that night. (Affordable at every other month) Everyone who attends the evening pays a suggested (but flexible) £5. For that, they get endless bowls of delicious handmade veggie soups (two to choose between), bread rolls, and a vote. They will listen to that evening’s three pitchers and then decide who wins the pot of money (that’s the hardest part of the night!) After hearing all pitches, you place your vote according to your first choice to win the money.

In the meantime, a family friendly, fun evening is had with a fascinating cross section of Colchester’s inhabitants. The evening is worth the £5 simply for the fellowship and networking that it offers, let alone everything else.

As for the pitchers: they can ask for money for pretty much anything. They each have five minutes to say what they need the money for and how it may benefit Colchester. And be creative! Most things happening locally have some kind of local merit.

While I was working on the final revision of my book, The Lemay Leveller, I pitched for money to help pay the editing and publishing fees, in the name of hard work, culture and protecting literature from being owned by the elite. On that night I lost, I was up against stiff competition, but I was told the numbers had been close.

Despite “losing” (or rather, as it feels, simply not winning the pot of money, because I won many other things of value the night I pitched and lost). That night was a huge success for me. One man donated his recent lottery winnings to me on the night. Others donated directly to my gofundme page. Others decided then and there that they would buy the book when it came out. Best of all, I met people who have become dear friends to me.

When ColchesterSoup were invited to participate in the ECC led festival “The Art of the Possible”, a new event was created: meetSOUP, with ColchesterSoup running it. People from all over Essex were able to pitch, and Karen kindly invited me to try again for The Lemay Leveller. Well. You know how it went. Of course I was happy to talk about my book again, no matter if I won or not! So I pitched again. But this time, I won!!! It felt amazing. It was a huge boost to my confidence as a first time, self publishing author. And now, almost a year later, and my book sales are still modest, but they are growing each month as more and more people try it and then recommend it onwards. Who knows? 200 years from now it might be highly valued literature. And it will be known as having been nurtured by a community that values the arts, the uniqueness of the individual, and how, if that uniqueness is nurtured rather than wasted or abused, it can become a success. That, is what ColchesterSoup, means to me. And on a larger scale, it is this spirit of initiative that makes Colchester the wonderful place to live that it is.

If you need money for yourself. If you know a charity who does. If you have an idea but no money to get started, visit ColchesterSoup and fill in their super easy application form. Who knows? It could be you holding that winners frame! But either way – you’re going to win just by going. You’re going to feel welcomed, a part of an active, engaging, lively community, in a town I’ve deeply come to love.

If you’re reading this outside of Colchester, why not see if you have a local Soup? And if not, why not do what Karen did. She learned of the movement coming from Detroit, and brought it to us, pushing on the trend throughout the UK. It is micro funding, community funding and togetherness, at its best.

Well, that’s what I wrote in July earlier this year. Since then we (Matthew, Alex and I) pitched at the most recent ColchesterSoup for Perkin’s Family Trust, asking for money to buy books for refugee children. Sadly we didn’t win, but the winner was an extremely worthy organisation that helps get people out of debt, and, as always, the evening felt wonderful. The highlight for me was watching my son Alex, 10, standing on a stage, arms outstretched, speaking confidently to a large room full of adults, on the magic of being a reading child. One of the proudest moments of my life – thank you Karen, and the entire Soup team, for fostering an environment that introduced Alex to public speaking in such a marvellous way.

While we ourselves have no plans to ask to pitch again any time in the near future, we are trying to encourage a local homeless man who we know, to go and try to pitch for money to try to help turn his life around. I know he’d get my vote! If you, your organisation or someone you know of is in need or has an idea that requires funding – pass it on!

No it’s not Harry Potter, it’s Alexander Duane Norman in all his ten year old glory x
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