The Bradford Curry Circle is held every Thursday from 7pm in the Carlisle Business Centre, and every Monday from 7pm at the Keighley Association Women and Children’s Centre.
“It immediately struck me that the evening was as much about fulfilling social needs as it was about filling stomachs.”
I was excited to visit The Bradford Curry Circle, which was established in 2013, and I was not disappointed. When I arrived at the beginning of the evening volunteers of all ages were carting in boxes of bread and huge dishes of curry, pouring drinks and setting up the hall for the evening ahead. People benefiting from the service had already begun to to arrive and were greeting each other. It immediately struck me that the evening was as much about fulfilling social needs as it was about filling stomachs. I spoke with Parvez Iqbal, who has been involved with the evening since its third week, and he was keen to emphasise the social benefits of the night – many people spend their whole evening at the Curry Circle. He wanted to make clear that the event was not exclusively for the homeless, but “is for anyone who is struggling to put food on the table for any reason.”
Bana Gora, set up the Bradford Curry Circle nearly four years ago after she witnessed people rummaging in the bins outside the business centre. This heartbreaking event triggered her to research food provision in Bradford. She noticed a gap on Thursday night, and thus decided to host the Curry Circle in the hope that it would alleviate the hunger problem. When I spoke with her she passionately declared, “no-one in England in the 21st century should be scavenging or going hungry; it simply shouldn’t happen!”
Yet both Parvez and Bana spoke about witnessing a growth in need for the evening – evidence of the increasing struggle much of the local population are facing. Now an average of 100 people attend the Curry Circle each week, with a further 50 people attending to the Circle’s newer venture in Keighley.
“No-one in England in the 21st century should be scavenging or going hungry; it simply shouldn’t happen!”
Fortunately the recent cuts to the third sector have not, and will not affect the organisation because they are funded through sponsorship from businesses like MyLahore (who provide the delicious curry), and Queensbury’s Tesco, who donate their excess food. However, cuts to the voluntary sector may in part explain the the rise in the demand for their services, as other organisations are forced to limit their offerings or even disband.
Despite an increase in demands and difficulties with funding Parvez and Bana go from strength to strength to keep up the great work and commitment. I ended my visit by asking them what they found most rewarding about volunteering for the Bradford Curry Circle. Parvez spoke of “fulfilling a moral obligation” and spoke of his desire to “help the people around him [me]”, while Bana said she felt that knowing she’d done her bit, and “knowing that people won’t go hungry or have to look in bins” was what made it worthwhile for her.
The Muslim Women’s Council – the organisation behind the project – places high value on looking after neighbours and avoiding labels and judgement. This is what makes the Bradford Curry Circle a safe space that is open to all.
“The Bradford Curry Circle is a safe space that is open to all.”
More information about the Curry Circle, and other work by the Muslim Women’s Council, can be found at http://www.muslimwomenscouncil.org.uk/currycircle/