One overcast Friday morning last October last year, I was heading (slowly) through Birmingham rush hour traffic towards Sparkhill. I knew nothing of the area, other than that I could see it was bustling, and that it would be where I was to spend most of my Friday mornings for the near future.
Maybe some context would be helpful before we go on.
I moved to Birmingham in September for an academic year of training to go overseas and work with a Christian development agency. The centre that we study in is also the place that we live. Where we eat. Where almost everything we do happens. So when I was told that Friday morning required leaving the building, you can imagine my excitement. A slot in the timetable that had simply been given the title of ‘Placement’ appeared on Friday mornings. Each trainee was to go somewhere different, and this is why I found myself at The Feast HQ.
I was told The Feast were an interfaith youth charity. A quick look at their website before meeting them showed pictures of smiling young people in all sorts of fun settings, and some snazzy graphics on something called their ‘Guidelines for Dialogue’.
Here was a group of people who wanted to see a real change in how people engaged with their friends, with their neighbours, regardless of what their own background was. It’s about building confidence in your own faith to allow you to engage with those from another.
I’ll never forget that morning. Over tea and biscuits – a bit of a theme for The Feast, you can usually guarantee that food will feature! – I met with Jill and talked about what The Feast did, and how I could play a part in it. The team, I was told, are all over the place. For most part, the youth workers are in schools, meeting and planning how they’re going to bring people together at their next events. The wider Feast team exists in different cities, even with one of their offices having been set up in Lebanon. It was all going on! Friday’s tended to be admin catch-up day, which suited me just fine.
Over the next few months, I found myself involved in all sorts of interesting and fun activities. It was a joy to get to meet the team over the coming weeks and months, and hear first-hand the excitement around the work they are doing in schools, with youth clubs, and the vision for the future of where The Feast will go.
Putting on events requires a great deal of preparation and follow-up work; it’s never just show up on the day and hope it works out for the best. Everything from making sure contact information for the young people involved is correctly recorded, to creating leaders packs of instructions and game ideas for event days happens at HQ. There’s also a chance to be involved in the events themselves, which was a great learning experience. (Check out the Lozells inter-school Challenge Day.) To witness something happen that I’d been involved in the planning of gave me a great sense of pride in all our hard work. Early on in the New Year, we hosted Manal, a colleague from Lebanon. She had come to visit and see what The Feast looks like in the UK, and meet as many people from The Feast family as she could in 6 days. She’s now back in Beirut, having taken with her tips and tools for getting things underway with young people from different faiths in a Middle Eastern context.
There’s probably far more in the list of things I’ve done while with The Feast, but the above are just a few highlights of what has been a really fruitful time learning how to host interfaith and intercultural events. The role of the Feast as a facilitator to getting people – particularly young people – talking to each other so as to dispel any negative preconceptions or fear that may be rooted in not knowing is one of great importance, and I know it would be hugely beneficial to all who partook if it were able to be seen taking place across the country on a much larger scale.
Today, sadly, is my last Friday morning with the gang here in Sparkhill. I’ll be leaving Birmingham in a few weeks, and my next chapter is starting. I know I’ll reflect on my time with The Feast incredibly fondly, and have learnt a great deal here I know I’ll take with me overseas. A massive thank you to all the team here
So what does this mean for you, reading this? It means that you can – and should – get involved for yourself. If you have a free morning every now and then that you are able to commit to giving, a love of getting to know new people and seeing friendships fostered, you are an ideal fit, and absolutely wanted here at The Feast! There’s something for everyone and every gift to get stuck into. I cannot recommend it highly enough, as it’s been such a great experience from start to finish. And there are ALWAYS biscuits.
If you would like to know more about how you can get involved with the Feast, please call 0121 675 1158 or email email@example.com for further details.