So now's the time to forge closer ties with organisations within the UK that can make a difference, in line with the 'political re-wilding' George Monbiot writes about here. This breaking of bread - and what bread (chef Dina Mousawi, more on whom anon, pictured below) - a fortnight ago wasn't exactly a seasonal celebration, but better than any pre-Xmas event of a similar kind I've attended. Rarely met so many friendly and engaging folk as at this perfectly orchestrated fundraiser at the Ridley Road Social Club (a splendid venue, for a start, which clearly does good lunches and feels immediately welcoming).
Good Chance started out creating a safe and vibrant performance space for refugees in the form of a dome within the Calais Jungle. They'll be taking the same to Sheffield, where I hope they'll hook up with some musical friends of mine. The venture has expanded not only to mounting a much-acclaimed production about the Jungle experience, now in New York, and visiting more troubled zones where the GCers might make a difference. I got to talk to the charismatic Stephen Daldry. He's been down on the Mexican side of the border, where he found out how Honduran refugees are looked down upon by the locals: each 'tribal' group has the potential to hate another, but with a bit of work they can come to understand and welcome. He said the big problem, he'd learned from a very famous New Best Friend, was going to be climate-change related; in several years' time we'll see the new wave.
Above is J's (and now I hope my) friend Philip Cowell, Good Chance's Development Manager and one of the friendly circulators, while in the top picture you can also see second from the right one of the Co-Directors, Joe Robertson. All images taken by Aymen Mahamednor, courtesy of Good Chance. I was seated, as you can see from the top photo, next to Majid Adin from Mashad in Iran, a very talented artist who worked on this excellent short film to Elton John's 'Rocket Man' (thanks, of course, to Daldry's connections).
The food was superb, courtesy of Dina, Creative Director of Good Chance, who's also produced a Syrian cook book - she is from Iraq, but her collaborator was born in Damascus, and they spoke to many women for the recipes.
I was pleased to see my all-time favourite starter dip, what I call muhammara, in the early pages, and so far I've produced chicken in turmeric yogurt: needs fine tuning, but will be a good regular. At the feast, the turmeric cakes with pistachio were a special treat.
Dina charmingly introduced the speeches and the film, and then there was music from Sounds of Refuge's John Falsetto and Mohamed Sarrar.
It's a long time since I've been to a social gathering where so many people - in this case the regular team - were so adept at going round the room and talking to others. They all gave off such positive and friendly vibes. Time to do more.