Like all great ideas, Detroit SOUP was quickly cloned and has been recreated not just in the US, but also around the world. Cities including Sheffield, York, Liverpool and London have already jumped on the SOUP bandwagon, paving the way for the first Leeds event, which took place back in August.
The format is simple: buy a ticket, listen to the projects’ pitches, eat soup and vote. Tickets start at just £10, and all money raised goes directly to the winning project, the creators of which can use it however they want, provided it benefits their local city.
After the success of the first Leeds SOUP, which saw Real Junk Food Project’s Forage Cafe take home the pot (which they used to buy a new coffee machine) Leeds SOUP returned for Round 2 at The Adelphi pub on November 12th. Raising an impressive £1794, £600 of which was pledged by Liberty Mutual Insurance, the venue was packed out with charitable souls eager to hear the good causes their money could support.
Pitching were four local charities and projects: Alternatives to Violence, a volunteer-led charity designed to help people handle conflict better; St. George’s Crypt, a centre dedicated to helping the homeless and vulnerable adults; Languages for Good, a fledgling project aimed at connecting small charities, community groups and organisations to overcome language barriers; and the winner of the second Leeds SOUP, Pyramid of Arts, an organisation fostering creatives with and without learning disabilities.
We spoke to two of Leeds SOUP’s organisers, Josh and Tom, about their decision to kick off the event in Leeds, and where they hope to go from here.
Good to meet you guys! Firstly, it would be great if you could tell us a little bit more about yourselves and what makes you the perfect people to be running Leeds SOUP.
Josh: During the day I run a software consultancy based in central Leeds under We Are Stac Ltd, as well as an event called Hey! every month or so. I'm very passionate about both those things, but I really wanted to do something that was outside of software which involved the greater Leeds community. I couldn't think of a better way to do this than with the SOUP format.
Tom: I work as a project manager for a digital agency based in Leeds called Parallax. Hopefully that makes me qualified to organise things, and when you consider that alongside the skill-set of someone like Josh, who has event experience, it gives us a good foundation that we can build on. Additionally, our digital expertise also helped us to create a good online presence, which was key to getting it in front of the right audience.
This was your second Leeds SOUP. What was the inspiration behind the event to begin with and why did you decide to start it?
Josh: I first heard about the original SOUP project, Detroit SOUP from Tom and James (co-founders). I'm already involved with running events in Leeds and this felt like a really good idea that I could get behind. Leeds has such a brilliant community full of people doing really great things, and they all need a voice to get that all important exposure. Really it's just about giving them an audience, regardless of who wins on the night.
Tom: As with most good stories, it began in the pub one evening. I’d just seen the article from BBC News on Detroit SOUP and was intrigued about it, and whether we could potentially steal in. Not much happened after a few initial excited conversations with my colleague James, and we left it for a little while. That was until we were discussing how, as a company/individuals, we might be able to make a difference to the community in the wake of the huge cuts to the welfare state post-election. We revisited the idea, and this time actually decided to do something about it. The fact that Detroit SOUP pro-actively encourages you to ‘steal’ the idea also helped make up our mind.
How did you get the event off the ground? Who are your sponsors and what was their initial reaction when you asked if they wanted to get involved?
Josh: We pay heavy thanks to our sponsors and supporters who all play a part in making the event work. The Adelphi and Taste Cuisine have been with us from the start, helping with the venue and the soup. We've also had some great support from corporate sponsors such as Liberty Mutual Insurance and Leeds Trinity. My original thoughts were that it would be difficult to attract interest from large companies, but they genuinely want to better the local community and support a local event.
Tom: The beauty of SOUP is that the concept is fairly simple, has been tried and tested, and is fairly easy to sell to people, because of the community nature. We also don’t ask for a huge amount of time or money, which I think means that we can get a lot of little bits of help here and there, rather than asking a large amount from one sponsor or partner.
After the success of the second Leeds SOUP, do you have plans to move to a bigger venue?
Josh: Whilst the Adelphi has been so supportive from the start, we're aware that we might be reaching the capacity of the venue now, and comfort is one of our primary focuses as the event grows. If we need to move we'll still be very keen to keep the Adelphi involved, as their support was crucial to the success of the first few events. Having too many people is certainly a good problem to have!
Tom: Expansion was always something that we had in mind. Having met and spoken to Amy Kaherl (one of the founders of Detroit SOUP) it seems to be that you find a critical mass, which I don’t think we have yet, of people, and then the event becomes self-sustaining, or so we hope! We’re also mindful of the incredible amount of help and support we’ve had from the Adelphi, but know that they’d have the event’s best interests at heart if we needed to expand to a larger event space.
Josh: We’d also like to say a massive thank you to everyone for their support so far. We're really just getting started with this, and the backing we've had from people has helped it get off to a good start.
Tom: Echoing Josh, a big thank you to all the pitchers, attendees and partners. This is hopefully the beginning of something big, that can have a real, tangible, positive impact on the local community, and we couldn’t do it without everyone’s help.
For more information and to keep an eye out for the next Leeds SOUP, follow the event on Facebook.