A social enterprise in Preston city centre is celebrating after overcoming a setback that nearly closed its doors for good.
Following a night of trouble in the city in January, all of The Larder’s windows were smashed but with the support of the local community, the future looks brighter for the enterprise, with a number of community projects and exciting events in the pipeline.
We spoke to Kay Johnson MBE, The Larder’s director, on the eve of the organisation’s third birthday to find out more.
“It was so upsetting,” said Kay. “I was in bed and received a text to say ‘you’ve had all your windows smashed’. Everything we do, we do from the heart and it felt like an attack on us.
“Certain things weren’t covered by the insurance, for example the cost of boarding up and making safe all of the windows, securing the building, clean up costs and the loss of income from being closed. We had an excess of £1,000 to pay. We run on a very tight budget, so this made things very difficult.
“This wasn’t the first time it has happened; a window has been smashed before and then just before Christmas someone broke a pane of glass in the door.”
The community rallied around, Rachel Amy Phoenix set up an online fundraiser, raising nearly £1,500, local people donated via The Larder’s website and many people signed up to be Friends of The Larder.
“We wanted to give something back to people,” said Kay. “So, by encouraging people to sign up to Friends of The Larder, for just £12 a year, they receive a free piece of cake a month when a drink is purchased, an exclusive guest list ticket to our meet the supplier and taster events, and priority booking and a 5 per cent discount on The Larder ticketed events.”
Kay is keen to help address the problem of anti-social behaviour in central Preston. The Larder was one of a number of businesses that were targeted in the attack on the night and the issue persists.
“This is a problem we have in Preston,” said Kay. “It has happened to other businesses more recently. I thought, ‘what can I do to make this situation better?’ So, we are part of a collaboration of organisations, working with the police, discussing different ways, positive ways, of addressing this problem.
“What we, as The Larder, can offer is accredited training and non-accredited training and work experience for young people to give them something positive to focus on. If any organisations within Preston, who aren’t already involved in the discussions, would like to help, please do get in contact.”
The Larder is now in a position to replace the windows and move forward with an exciting array of events and projects.
“Any extra fundraising we have received goes straight back into funding our projects,” said Kay.
“We’re getting ready to launch our Easter Kids in the Kitchen cooking programme, with online cooking classes. Families who are eligible for free school meals may apply for the programme and they will receive vouchers to exchange for ingredients to make the meals at Preston Market. They will be able to exchange their vouchers at Fresh n’ Fruity, Banana King, Pickles of Preston and Livesey’s Butchers.
“For the past year, we’ve been hosting and supporting a range of community groups such as a sign language group, a carers group, a refugee women’s group and a knitting group to tackle social isolation.
“Joey Afrin Black is starting The Knit and Purl Jam, which will run on the second and fourth Sunday of the month. It’ll be a fun, friendly yarnbombing group that is open to people whether they can crochet or not. Some people haven’t been out of the house for a long time and we’re giving them the opportunity to meet, chat and make in a safe and welcoming space.
“Starting from Saturday 26 February, at 10am, we’ll be holding Sustainability Saturdays once a month inspiring action through a series of Repair Cafes, clothes swaps, lectures, talks and skills shares. We’re asking people what do they want to see, what would help them live more sustainably?
“We’d love people to get involved, so please email The Larder if you think you have something to offer. We’d love this project to go weekly.”
Since its inception, art and supporting local artists, musicians and creatives have been integral to The Larder’s vision. From the moment the project launched it was hosting art exhibitions, music and poetry nights.
During the pandemic, The Larder adapted and rather than hosting exhibitions inside the space, art and photography were exhibited in The Larder’s windows.
The venue has hosted exhibitions of work by Britain’s leading political artist Cold War Steve, as well as being involved in The Lancashire Photography Festival and exhibiting work by artist Shiryn Wynter, photographer Tony Worrall and artist Ava Jolliffe. The vibrant work of contemporary artist Iain H. Williams is currently on display until Wednesday 23 March.
Kay is keen to continue supporting local creatives.
“I’d like to get back to how it was before the pandemic, by providing a platform for local talent. Giving a space to artists, musicians, authors and poets to put events on. We have a DJ interested in running more music nights.
“The money we raise within The Larder at these events is put back into the social enterprise to support our community initiatives.”
Indeed, it is The Larder’s community initiatives, combined with providing hundreds of freshly prepared meals to vulnerable people throughout the pandemic, improving cooking skills among young people and raising awareness of eating local and nutrition-packed produce, along with 25 years working to reduce food poverty, which saw Kay being recognised in the Queen’s Honours and awarded an MBE by Princess Anne at Windsor Castle in November 2021.
That is not all, The Larder has even more exciting news to share.
“During the pandemic, chef Nik Prescott came to volunteer with us and help out with our Cooking for the Community project,” said Kay. “When furlough finished, he went to work as a chef in Manchester. He is an excellent chef and has worked with all the top chefs in London and now he is coming to work at The Larder. We are really excited.”
The Larder will be launching their new menu at their third birthday party. Their next Supper Club event on Saturday 19 March has nearly sold out. They will continue with Supper Club events each month, as well as opening for takeaways, afternoon teas and catering outside events.
“I just want to say a very big thank you to everyone who has supported us, from our volunteers to people who have donated, to everyone who has signed up as a Friend of The Larder and to all of our well-wishers. We thought we were going to have to close but because of people’s kindness and generosity we’ve been able to stay open.”
The Larder is located at 50 Lancaster Road in the city centre. The opening hours are currently Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 10am to 4pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm, and Sunday 12pm to 4pm.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or follow The Larder on Facebook for more information.