Words and photos: Michelle Corns
On Saturday, New Wortley Community Centre transformed the Oak Road Recreation Ground, situated behind Armley Prison, into a lively and colourful festival.
The New Wortley Food Festival is aiming to be an annual event, which – like all other many other community events – had to be cancelled last year due to Covid-19. The recent lifting of restrictions finally allowed the festival to go ahead.
As this festival was just down the road from my neighbourhood, I wandered down to check it out. Driving down the road, I spotted a number of families, walking towards the event, which had just begun.
On arrival I noticed there was someone sitting in the middle of the basketball pitch, wearing a hat made of balloons – this turned out to be volunteer co-ordinator Victoria Kortekaas, who was helping another volunteer to set up the PA system. We soon had lively music to the joi de vive.
The stalls were situated around the courts. At the top end, was a selection of canopied food stalls. As it was a food festival it seemed pertinent to check them out!
There was a choice of chicken or vegetable curry. (I had the veg one) for the bargain price of 50p. There were also samosas, falafels and pizza available to buy – the latter of which was freshly made in a pizza oven, on-site. Alas, I’m gluten intolerant so couldn’t sample any and had to be content with the delicious aroma of pizza, mixed with the sweet smell of the wood smoke, wafting from the oven.
As I have a sweet tooth, it didn’t take me long to notice the cake stall – which was selling the most tempting cakes and snacks. I bought some candy for my nieces and had a chat to the friendly volunteers.
Besides food there were lots of other attractions and interests. There was a tombola, coconut shy, free yoga taster sessions, even the police had joined in, letting children have their photos taken on their motorbikes. I had a natter with the knitting group and picked up a leaflet from Cloth Cat about music training.
A little further along I noticed a large piece of paper with colourful labels on it. It turned out to be the map of good things happening in the area. It was interactive, so people could add to it if there was an event or organisation that wasn’t already featured.
I bumped into Councillor Lou Cunningham who seemed delighted with the event. I also spoke to centre manager; Andrea who said:
“I am delighted to see so many members of the local community here today at the first New Wortley Food Festival. It is so important as we see COVID restrictions start to lift that we take the opportunity to celebrate everything that is great about our diverse community.
“The Cultural Café volunteers have done an outstanding job cooking an array of delicious international food enjoyed by all.”
I asked Andrea what feedback she had had from the festival-goers:
“First class event – when is the next one?”
“My favourite thing was the coconut shy – I won 3 coconuts!!
“Seeing everyone having fun and hearing laughter again made my day.”
“The community centre is doing so much in the area. There seems to be loads going on.”
It was great to see the community spirit and optimism, in spite of everything that has happened in the last year.
New Wortley Community Centre is the hub of community life in the area. They have been offering a restricted service, aiding residents during the pandemic. They are hoping to reopen fully, in the near future. For more information, check out their website.