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Street Feast 2011, Fitzgerald Park, Cork

I now live in Phibsboro but for 3 years before moving here, I lived in Rathmines, Ranelagh and Portobello. I loved Portobello and hated living in Ranelagh and I just never settled into life in Rathmines. Something about the transience of living in flatland, coupled with the anti-social behaviour on my street every other night and the final straw was when my lovely bike, one of my favourite possessions and my first birthday present from Niall, was stolen from outside the house. I made the move to Phibsboro early October and I am still amazed at the sense of community around. It’s nothing tangible except that the neighbours acknowledge each other and you see the same people around.

For this reason, when I read tweets about the pop-up feast which was to be held in a secret location in Dublin, I was intrigued. When the location was revealed I was going mad I couldn’t make it. A long table was set up on Millennium Bridge spanning the Liffey. Local businesses donated food, musicians stopped by, 40 passers-by sat down to a spontaneous feast. A lovely different type of lunch for those lucky enough to stop by. What was it all about? Street Feast is an initiative which started last year in Dublin, an effort to get communities together and encourage people to get to know their neighbours. I loved the idea from the beginning and became determined to organise one for our neighbourhood.

Then I realised I’d be in Cork that weekend. My last weekend at home before my parents go off to New Zealand. I started telling Mary about the whole thing and we realised that Street Feast 2011 was co-inciding with Eileen’s 29th birthday. Great! A plan started to form. I logged our picnic on the website’s interactive map & tweeted the details and we were off. Mary spread the news on Facebook and then we sat back for a few weeks.

The picnic was organised for 2pm in Fitzgeralds Park in Cork. There wasn’t much we could do in advance really. I knew that I would make sausage rolls from tweeter @dudara’s blog, stout and beetroot cupcakes from my own and the delicious orange chocolate mousse cake from @gimmetherecipe. I made that cake for two birthdays during lent when Eileen was off chocolate so I knew it had to be her birthday cake too. My mum organised the table and baskets etc for transporting all the stuff to the park. I contacted the park for permission – no problem to have a picnic in a public park. Me & Mary went on a reky (? as Patrick says) to check out a good location and we chose a spot beneath the trees, near the pond and near the bandstand which was Plan B in case it rained.

It didn’t rain. In fact, the sun shone and while it was chilly & a bit breezy, we had a great day. We arrived and hung up balloons, bunting and paper garlands. We set up the table and the area started to resemble a party. And then people started to arrive. Several groups of our friends gathered together in the park for a late summer picnic. People nibbled on all sorts of food, we sang Happy Birthday, we fed the ducks, children played in the playground, we chatted and caught up with people. It was great. Eileen loved her birthday. And I loved getting together with people. The only tiny sad thing was that we didn’t have any random people. We knew everyone there. People stopped to ask what the occasion was but were too polite to stay and have a cupcake. In that sense, it wasn’t exactly fitting the Street Feast mould but at the same time, we got to spend time with friends and family, outdoors and sharing food. We vowed to have more days like it but with the summer drawing to a close, I can’t see it happening again until next year. Until then we have the memory of yesterday.

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