Ages and ages ago when we were pounding the high street in the name of research and talking to the local shop keepers about what they thought about the idea of Feast, I spent some time with the infamous Pauline of West Norwood Fishmongers. Pauline is infamous because not wanting to see her local fishmongers close down, she bought it, retrained as a fishmonger and now has a thriving and most excellent business at the heart of her beloved community.
We spoke at length about how fantastic West Norwood was and how brilliant an idea Feast was so of course Pauline was all for Feast. She loves West Norwood and daily refers her customers to other local establishments on the high street. However, I distinctly remember her saying that yes she would support Feast but no she wouldn’t be opening. Not on Sunday. She works a very full 6 day week and it was just not possible. Totally understood, I did.
Last Feast – the November one – around mid-afternoon in a haze of caffiene and weather overload, I caught sight of activity over her way and promptly ignored it; but that fleetling snapshot stayed with me in the front of my memory and it was only later that evening that I realised what I had actually seen. Pauline had been open. Not closed. Open.
Upon further investigation (I went to see her-I had to) I learnt that November had been her THIRD month open and that the shop had been packed. “But Pauline, what changed your mind?” I asked. “Well, my customers asked me why I wasn’t open and they wanted me to be open. It was something I just had to do”. And so she did. She explained that the day before a Feast she cooks up any leftovers from the Saturday trading in to a variety of dishes and on a Feast day she opens her doors and offers tasters (FREE) to anyone who wants to try. And Oysters too. “You’ve gotta serve champagne Pauline” I dribbled. “Maybe” she said. And do you know she just might. I could see the fire in her eyes and her excitement was tangible. So far its been a great success and each month gets a little bit bigger. She’s bursting with ideas for December. There will more things to try, and more things to buy.
I am actually feeling quite emotional as I write this Feasters because, really, this is what Feast is all about. Feast is about our community, our high street and it singing and swinging and turning into a butterfly, and I just loving seeing change unfold before my eyes especially when its off the back of the beast that is now Feast.