Colchestersoup – Looking Back, Looking Forwards

A few months ago we took a look at Colchestersoup, a simple idea with its origins in Detroit, USA. The Colchestersoup events have come a long way since those early days and Karen Taylor now brings us up to date.

Colchester Soup Logo

Looking back, looking forwards

It’s well over a year now since Colchestersoup first opened the doors in Colchester at the Hythe community centre and it’s been an absolute rollercoaster of a year!

Back in January 2015 the soup concept was a new one to the UK with Colchester being the 3rd town to host soup evenings.

We constantly had to explain the concept… no it’s not a soup kitchen… and we still do. But that’s OK. Since then we’ve met up with the originator of Detroitsoup (who we nicked the idea from) after she was flown over by Richard Branson and have learned that after 6 years of Detroitsoup she still has to explain it to her own father.


But it’s a whole lot easier now. BBC world news visited us in Colchester town centre in March last year, wrote a stunning write up and soup exploded all over the country. Figuratively.

We’ve been in newspapers, on the radio, in magazines and blogs and visited other soups as far north as Newcastle- They had been trying to get funding for 2 years but nobody ‘got’ the concept. Until the BBC article.

Now there are more than 50 in the UK. We’ve had visitors to Colchester who have flown down from Scotland to see how it works, visitors from the Czech Republic and on no soup night is there a room full of entirely Colchester people – the last one included Lithuanians, Czech and Chelmsford people amongst others.

Colchester Soup Cycle

The idea is simple – we rent a room, provide some soup and invite 3 people to speak about their idea and what they would do with any money won. The 3 people will have already submitted forms telling us about their idea – that way we can select a varied group for the entertainment of the room. Visitors pay a donation at the door for soup and a vote, the money goes in a pot, 3 people speak, everybody has homemade soup and a roll while discussing who they are going to give their vote to. Votes are counted – highest votes takes all the money. On two occasions people have shared with joint top votes. The community in the room decide who gets the cash – not us, not a grant form, not a committee. People for people.

Colchester Soup Firstsite


We like our numbers here at soup. After all there would be no point if we couldn’t measure the impact so a few statistics…

We’ve run 15 soup events over a period of 17 months.
We’ve run 3 events for councillors where the councillors put their community grants in a pot, one for Essex County Council alongside Harwichsoup to show ECC how it could work, one for Colchester Voluntary Services, and the other 10 were ‘normal’ soups.
At those events 60 people have stood up and talked about their ideas (there are more at councillor events- everybody that asks gets a turn)
Of the 60, 4 were charities, 23 were other organisations, 24 were individuals with good ideas and 1 was a local business.
The councillor pots accounted for £10,000 distributed across 23 different organisations.
The remaining soups have ‘redistributed’ £3,130.68 from visitor pockets to pitcher pockets.

The pitchers have included such ideas as:

Fitting out a van to travel and educate people about autism – Individual
Star ratings for restaurant and business doors showing accessibility – Individual
Clay for free pottery lessons – Individual
Potters wheel for special needs adults – Organisation not related to individual above
Exoskeleton for badly damaged leg – Individual
Funding for book publication – x2 – Individuals
Korfball awareness – Individual – didn’t want to win just wanted to let people know it exists
Minecraft overlaid with Camulodonum – Individual
Grief Counselling – Individual
Disability adjustments to houses – Charity



Some of those won, some didn’t but let’s use those as examples…

Fitting out a van – his 50th birthday – he raised awareness and gained extra donations outside of soup
Star ratings – someone else in the room offered to create the website which the money was needed for – doubling it’s value – he won
Pottery lessons – they won – someone else in the room gave them access to heavily discounted clay
Potters wheel – they won – it’s probably spinning as you read
Exoskeleton – this was the final amount of money needed for revolutionary health care usually only available to the forces – he won and is the first civilian in the UK with this intervention. He was due to have his leg amputated the following week.
Funding for a book – one is published and has great reviews – the other – watch this space
Korfball – didn’t win – someone else in the room offered an entire team of players
Minecraft overlaid with Camulodonum – hopefully will be in all schools in Essex soon – he won but gave his money away to joint winners Foodbank
Grief counselling – she won – needed money for office space but someone else in the room gave her the office space – free – money used for sourcebooks instead – doubling the value
Disability adjustments – strong East of England charity – there to raise confidence of the presenters speaker skills – he’s come back from devastating injury – now a confident presenter



With numbers that good we should be really pleased to continue. To be honest it’s the stories at the bottom of the page that are our reason for being. Every time we go home we are buzzing with the new ideas that WILL happen in Colchester just because a group got together in a room for a few hours.

All we did was rent the hall and bring some soup along.
Find out more about soup HERE
Or follow us on twitter @colchestersoup
And like us on Facebook
Listen to soup in action courtesy of brilliant community person Adam Roxby Here.

Karen Taylor


Colchestersoup is a simple idea based on a concept that has its origins in Detroit, USA. Karen Taylor tells us all about it

Colchester Soup Logo

3 pitchers, 2 soups, 1 winner

When we were asked to produce around 500 words it seemed a lot. So we decided to put 500 into a bit of perspective.

500 = half as many followers as we have on Twitter

500 = twice as many likes as we have on Facebook

500 = an eighth of the amount of money raised by Colchestersoup

500 = as many people as we hope to ultimately reach on soup nights

500 = the amount of money we’d like to ultimately raise on an average soup night

We started out with an idea, shamelessly copied from Detroit Soup. We watched it in action at Southend Soup.

On a soup night the local community comes together to donate a suggested £5 at the door. For this they receive soup, a roll and most importantly a vote.

Colchester Soup Bowls

In addition there are an amazing number of people who just want to hear or help something positive.

3 local people/groups talk about their idea that may help the community. They get 5 minutes to talk. There are no electronic aids to their talks, and then they get 5 minutes to answer questions.

That’s all the time they have to convince the audience that their idea deserves to win however much money has been taken as door donations.

As they collect and eat very good soup the votes are cast. Much discussion of the various groups goes on around the tables before people make their final decision. Each soup night provides three very different pitchers.

Following soup both the winners and their winnings are announced. As Colchestersoup has built up winnings have gone from a not insignificant £195.20 to £367 in July and £2000 from one councillor towards his own version of soup.

Colchester Soup Cycle

Pitchers and winners so far have been (winners in bold)

Papworth Trust – needed some money for PR to let people know they’re in the Colchester area

Friends of St Botolphs – needed money for a planter, but more importantly wanted volunteers to come forward

Go4 Enterprises – wanted money for a survey of a boat that they’re hoping to put on the Colne to provide training and pop-up cafes/entertainment


Essex Feminist Collective – needed money for ongoing activities including education in schools, more importantly wanted to raise awareness of what they do

Castlegate Day Care Centre- needed money to replace a ‘decrepit’ kiln

Essex Raynet – needed money towards a new aerial to be installed on Colchester Stadium


Colchester 3D Creative – needed money towards a London show for the students from the institute

Colchester Wildcats – needed a small amount for PR (they were prepared to share winnings) but more importantly wanted to let people know what Korfball is

Grief Recovery Method – needed money for workbooks before starting courses in September


AutismRolo – needed money towards refurb of a Ford Transit van to be used as educational facility

Erin Summers Norman – needed money towards editing and publishing of a social commentary book

Out4Good – needed money to help support and house troubled teenagers


Caroline Rhys-Lewis – pottery equipment – camera

Kidsbacks4thefuture – educational material

Colchester Soup

And then a local councillor said he wanted to run a soup to use his £2000 community grant so another 5 groups shared that money. Spent as directed by the community.

Want to pitch? Want to come along? Next event 20th November 2015 6.30 pm Samaritans Walsingham Road, CO2 7BN

Twitter @colchestersoup


Or call 07532 253540