Living Under One Sun (LUOS) became a registered charity in 2011. They currently have projects at three locations: a Neighbourhood Resource Centre in Northumberland Park, a community allotment, which they created from a bit of vandalised land on the Lea Valley in 2008 and a new project, Cafe Connect. They are partnered with HAIL (a charity that supports people with learning difficulties and autism) and are working on transforming a disused bowling green into a community cafe with an outdoor eating area with food growing boxes. LUOS have even received an MBE from the Queen for offering voluntary services to the community in Haringey.
They provide a safe space for the community to meet welcoming all ages, backgrounds, education and learning abilities, with one rule: ‘you’re welcome as long as you don’t make another person feel unwelcome.’
They run free activities including: beekeeping, various workshops in organic food growing, healthy eating, herbal medicine, cycling and walking, sustainable transport and energy, eco arts and carpentry. They have plans to use the new Cafe Connect for activities such as yoga and mindfulness.
LUOS came about when Leyla Laksari was working on a community project in Tottenham and was approached by a group of local Kosovan mothers who wanted more access to information about their community. Leyla organised a Kosovan breakfast and childcare and the women came together and shared stories of their past. There were tears, laughter and hugs. The women enjoyed themselves so much they stayed longer than planned so Leyla invited them back.
The groups evolved around stories of food and culture. In the second meeting they invited local Turkish and Kurdish women to join them. They shared recipes, traditional dancing and songs and they began to invite women from different parts of the community each time.
They then decided to complete a food hygiene course to give the sessions more structure. They had to bring in a translator to do the course and every step was translated into five different languages. When they passed and received their certificates an Albanian Kosovan woman threw up her hands and shouted something – when it was translated across the various languages it was ‘we all live under one sun – we are all equal’.
In the early days they would take regular walks to the Tottenham marshes sharing stories. The women explored the local area mapping and finding themselves on both a local map and a world map. Leyla explained, ‘many of these women came from land, land people who became landless, people who became displayed and misplaced. They lost all their networks.’
‘One of the biggest things we shared was food: ingredients, recipes, food as medicine, ceremonies, cultures – memories that sustain us and help us be resilient rather than victims. Land – the concept of land and soil – the alienation that people felt being without land was quite massive, digging and growing together and cooking together and sharing the land thinking about different ways of doing things was just enormously powerful.’
This article first appeared in the Food & Drink issue of Discovering Tottenham which came out in March this year. Living Under One Sun also run Tottenham Cafe Connect in the old bowling green in Down Lane Park.