4 July 2017

Eight years ago Alex Haw established 'Latitudinal Cuisine,' an open community of people exploring the world of global food and local friendships. The group meet locally and eat globally with the philosophy of 'meeting those before us, to discuss the world beyond us.' This year, the group organised a Big Lunch of epic proportions - their street party attracted over 300 people from the neighbourhood! Here's how they did it.. 

People enjoying a Big Lunch celebration.

I’ve been running a weekly crowdsourced dinner (Latitudinal Cuisine) for 8 years. We started a few months after London’s first supperclubs, and have been getting friends and strangers together ever since. Latitudinal Cuisine is our collective ongoing project to uncover the secrets of this Earth (whether its food or its people) and to learn about this great salad bowl of a city we call London. Our menu follows the spin of the earth, exploring 360 degrees of world food in 360 days, moving a degree a day; whatever the day of the year it is generates the longitudinal line we cook from. It's our way to meet great new people and overcome the social distance that too often impedes on modern city life.

Each week, we raise money for the amazing charity FoodCycle, whose aims we closely identify with. Recently, they came to talk to a group of fifty of us about their work on gleaning, rescuing food and building communities. We feel a great bond with them – and recognise in their work our passion for connecting people from different paths in life, and the pleasures of giving.

One year we ran a Big Lunch in our local park, but it felt a little like cheating; we really wanted to reclaim a street for dining. The next year we won a street closure, and dined from some tables we schlepped from our homes. It rained, and we took shelter under the local railway bridge. Mid-meal, a rubbish truck reversed right up against us to remove the bins from the local Vietnamese restaurants. We were still learning :)

A very dear friend of mine, Olivia Sibony, co-founded GrubClub - London’s top food-event platform, which kindly hosts all our dinners. Two years ago, she suggested we collaborate – and offered her home as HQ for a mammoth summer street party, which we did as part of Global Sharing Week. We hosted 200 people, and we all loved it. We hired a drone to film the mammoth dining table that we laid down the middle of the street; you could see it stretch through Shepherd’s Bush like a white line visible from space.

This year we decided to throw an even bigger street party, and connect it with the The Great Get Together. After a year of depressing politics and divisive events, it felt more pressing than ever to get people together and celebrate our common humanity. We flyered the neighbourhood and sent invites far and wide, and this time our table ran to almost a hundred metres down the street, beautifully laid with china and glass and quality cutlery. 300 people converged in their finest clothes, bearing beautiful food, beautifully presented – gifting their efforts to our mêlée of friends and strangers.

The table was so long you couldn’t see the end of it; it felt like it straddled different boroughs. All ages and races and creeds united for a glorious afternoon as differences evaporated and we came together as one. Tom Morley brought 40 bongo drums and conjured us into a tribal euphoria. DJs spun tunes and brought dancing to the streets. We cleared the tables and used some of them as oversized platforms for “table tennis”. We handed out poppers to everyone – and everyone managed to pull them at once, like a collective, momentary shower of happiness.

It’s a fair bit of work to organise the logistics of an elegant 300-person street dinner, but it felt magical, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. The photos and videos and memories radiate warmth, like human sunshine. If it had rained, all the neighbours would have taken us all in. I believe these collective acts of giving and co-creation breed understanding, empathy, generosity, happiness – and ultimately social change; each proffered meal offers hope of a better world.

All are welcome; come join us next year!

- Alex Haw

Latitudinal Cuisine from Grub Club on Vimeo.

Collective acts of giving and co-creation breed understanding, empathy, generosity, happiness – and ultimately social change; each proffered meal offers hope of a better world.