THEY say nothing brings people together like good food.
That proved to be the case on Sunday as local people from 26 nationalities turned out for The West Berkshire Food Day at the Riverside Community Centre.
The purpose of the inaugural event was to celebrate West Berkshire’s different cultures, meet new friends and sample food from around the world.
Guests were invited to bring national dishes to sample and they also received a ‘passport to West Berkshire’, an essential guide to local services and information.
Speaking at the event, Krutanth Mehta said: “It’s been really really good; so much food from all parts of the world. I didn’t know there were different communities here.”
Mr Mehta said he had met a cross-section of West Berkshire’s diverse community, including people from Ghana, Lebanon and his native India, along with representatives from councils and the police.
Mr Mehta said that he had used the tourist information centre, which closed following council cutbacks, to learn about the community.
“When I came first, I didn’t know much of the people. Winter was quite depressing,” he said.
“I got to know the people and joined a running group.
“My experience has been quite good, but there’s not much of an awareness of the services available here.
“That’s something when people come here that people don’t know about, like running groups. It’s nice to meet other people and I really enjoy living here now.”
Shazia Ali, from the West Berkshire Muslim Centre, said: “I’m quite surprised to see how diverse our community is – how many different cultures from different countries.
“It’s really nice to have an event like this to showcase that and bring everybody together.
“In the future we will try to do more events that involve the whole community.”
On living in West Berkshire, she said: “It’s been pleasant. I have never had anything negative at all like racism.
“Back in Essex I had lots growing up, but not come across it in Newbury, although I’ve had people say they have, but I personally haven’t.
“Everybody has been really friendly and welcoming.”
Pastor at Bridge Church Newbury Mark Landreth-Smith said: “It’s great. Loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it.
“It’s a celebration of West Berkshire’s different cultures that we have and a celebration of yummy, yummy, yummy food.”
The new curate at St Mary’s Church in Thatcham, Leonard Onugha, from Nigeria, said: “It’s a good thing to have, bringing different people together and meeting new people.
“I’m more aware of the diversity in the area than before.”
The event was co-hosted by Building Communities Together, The Berkshire School of English, Healthwatch West Berkshire (HWWB) and West Berkshire Council.
Organiser Alice Kunjappy-Clifton, representing HWWB, said: “When we held our Thinking Together events we didn’t see the community at all. We thought about bringing the community together.
“The whole idea is to hear from the community. A lot of the time they have festivals and events that are celebrated, but you don’t want to go and talk about health issues at things like that.
“We thought, let’s see them all come out.
“I think the networking has been very good. We didn’t have an agenda, just wanted to see what the community is like.
“It’s lovely to see so many people. It’s lovely to see community engagement and integration.”
Mrs Kunjappy-Clifton said that organisers were hoping to bring a CultureFest back to the district next year, providing funding could be secured.
Chillies, The Sushi Maki, Isham Indian Dining, Kung Fu Oriental Buffet, The Newbury pub, Côte and Thai Golden Horse all donated food to the event.
Credit to Newbury Weekly News for the editorial.