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The luxury of fish and chips

 “London wouldn’t be the same without fish and chips,” says Mark Finnerty, a 22-year-old homeless man.

Mark becomes a celebrity for the day at the third annual EATT – Eat At The Table - event on Wednesday 8 February, organised by the GoldenUnion Fish Bar in the heart of Soho.

The family-run fish and chips shop teamed up with Centrepoint to provide a special free dinner of a typical British meal for young, homeless people.

Centrepoint is a leading charity for this cause and John Raynham, Head of Fundraising at Centrepoint, said that they are supporting over 1,200 16-25 year olds every year.

Glitzy waitresses, such as Jessica-Jane Clement and Rachel Stevens, are serving up the traditional dish, while several photographers and journalists are taking photos.

Way to a man’s heart

For one evening the roles are mixed up and everyone is having fun and a great time. Looking into Mark’s eyes, you can feel the excitement he is having. It is not because of the fish and chips in front of him, but for the event he is in.

He feels required, important and happy and it is a special time for him. People are used to looking at him strangely because he begs for money and they prefer to pass by and view homelessness as self-inflicted. However, not everyone has the same fortune in life.

After the photos and interviews, Mark speaks with me and reveals that in the past, he had a rough time because he had no home and suffered from asthma.

Mark came along with his friend Kiran James, 23. They are two lucky youngsters from Centrepoint who get the rare opportunity to dine at this event.

However, others like them remain unknown, living on the streets during the cold and wet winter. They are looking for food and can only wish for celebrities to serve up a delicious meal.

Food for thought

According to a University of York Study commissioned by Centre Point, there are over a million homeless people in UK and 78,000-80,000 young people experienced homelessness in 2011.

So what does fish and chips mean to a homeless person? “Having a meal like fish and chips is a luxury for a homeless person, just like when a celebrity makes a big record,” says Mark. 

Food itself means a lot to the homeless. They can go days without eating. They lack regular, healthy meals and always get sick with cold and flu because of the weather. 

Mark enjoyed the meal, saying: “This is the best fish and chips I have had in England for the 22 years I have been alive. Very nice! 10 out 10.”

Fish and chips is a traditional part of British culture, just like a cup of tea. Fast food is generally quite common in the UK, such as take-away, McDonald’s and Burger King restaurants. Mark says: “Fast food in England is the best fast food in the world, especially fish and chips.”

Having a simple, conventional meal can make a homeless person feel like they are a part of society.

There are different ways one can be without a home and homeless people do not only live on the street. Some of them live in hostels for a while; others take part in “sofa surfing” and many live in squats that are out of sight. However, all homeless people are struggling for food and basic needs.

There are many organisations and charity that are helping out by providing accommodation, meals and services such as washing up, clothes and job advice.

However people can do more. With over 500,000 empty houses in London, the contradiction is easily seen. People have to value the normal and essential things that they take for granted. Life is hard and being aware of it is the first step in helping others less fortunate.

 

Words, images & film by Stefania Barbaglio


Visit the Golden Union Fish Bar, 38 Poland Street, W1F 7LY (020 7434 1933)
Nearest tube: Oxford Circus (Bakerloo, Victoria and Central lines)

www.goldenunion.co.uk

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