Welcome Cinema + Kitchen

Welcome Cinema + Kitchen is a cross-cultural event celebrating food, film and friendship. It launched in October 2016 with a screening of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and a Q&A with screenwriter William Nicholson and producer David M Thompson and have continued to attract great films and high profile speakers from the art, film and refugee sector. The next one is on 20th December where they’ll be showing Paddington 2, as well as their signature delicious food from around the world, plus prizes, presents and guest speakers (tickets here). They are supported by Help Refugees, Amnesty International and work in association with MEENA Centre Birmingham. We had a chat with the lovely lot…

So what happens at Welcome Kitchen + Cinema?
CLAIRE: Fabulous food, amazing films and potential new friends!
ADVIA: We are a monthly integration project between refugees, asylum seekers and the general public, held every month at Amnesty International, Shoreditch.
MAGGIE: The event is a space created to allow people from all across London, no matter their status, race or religion to come together. It’s about building a community and allowing that community to be part of what drives the event and project forward.
ADVIA: Not to mention a children’s area lead by professional and amazing volunteers!
ROSE: It’s an evening of fun, sharing food from different cultures, socialising with new people, and acceptance. The event improves social isolation, and I love that it’s a hub where people meet and connect to many things that improve their lives even after the evening finishes.

How did it start?
ADVIA: The idea started when we attended a summit at Amnesty International, and the space was offered for anyone who could make good use of it.
CLAIRE: We were aware of issues of isolation and loneliness facing people living in a big city, newcomers and old. The refugee community in particular is excluded from mainstream society and we wanted to address that. Cinema is a good way of uniting people.
TOMMY: Welcome Kitchen was born out of Rose and my work with migrant cuisine in Northumberland Park, Tottenham. We had created a weekly space for local issues to be discussed over free meals, cooked by residents of many cultures. ‘Welcome Kitchen’ was coined after we brought elements of our work into collaboration with Welcome Cinema. Welcome Cinema and Kitchen soon became the collective’s name!
OKBA: I worked with Rose and Tommy in Tottenham, We’ve been doing Welcome Cinema and Kitchen for one year and I love it.
SIMON: When Maggie and I returned from the Jungle after Xmas 2015, we didn’t quite know how to process what we felt and saw. I felt honoured that so many refugees had opened themselves to us and shared their journeys. The best way to show respect was to do something and talk less.
ROSE: Me and Tommy were working together on a community cooking project, he told me about Welcome Cinema and Kitchen and invited me to join as one of the chefs. I didn’t know what to expect but I have loved being involved in this project ever since. I feel very passionate about it because I came to the UK as a refugee, and and I love to welcome people.

Can anyone come down to your next night?
OKBA: Everyone, lots of people from my country (Eritrea & Ethiopia) come.
MAGGIE: Everybody and anybody… does what it says on the tin!
TOMMY: We strive to make the events as accessible as possible – it’s free for refugees and asylum seekers, very reasonable for everyone else. People have the option to contribute toward subsidising the accessibility if they wish.
ROSE: Yes everyone is welcome.

What’s for dinner?
TOMMY: A multi-cultural feast! Welcome Cinema + Kitchen’s monthly supper club features up to seven countries on one plate, prepared by Welcome Kitchen’s talented refugee chefs. Their eclectic menus celebrate food from Ivory Coast, Libya, Ethiopia, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Iran – featuring top quality, special recipes you’d be hard pushed to find in restaurants.
ROSE: I’m Welcome Kitchen’s Ivorian chef. You can expect different menus each month, with food from mine and my fellow WK chefs cultures. Eating such a diverse and delicious dinner is an amazing thing everyone should experience.
OKBA: Traditional food from my country (Eritrea & Ethiopia) alongside my teammates dishes.
MAGGIE: The kind of food spectacular that keeps people coming back each month.

The Welcome Cinema + Kitchen Paddington 2 screening and supper club is on 20th December at Amnesty International in Shoreditch and you can get tickets and more info here. You can find out more on their website, Twitter or facebook and their JustGiving page is right here.

Interview: Josh Jones
Photo: Tom Medwell


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