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At this club night, you pay with food and toiletries

Words by Amy Packham

Picture this: thousands of people queueing up for a club night in Manchester, but instead of having cash in their wallets, they’re carrying bags with tinned food and essential toiletries.

To get inside, you give a minimum donation of five items. Food bank volunteers are on the door collecting everything before people head in for an evening of bass music.

It’s called ‘Food for Thought’ – the night-turned-festival that aims to raise hundreds of kgs in food donations to local food banks, plus send any profits to local charities.

Rich Reason, 40, who has been a promoter in the north of England for 20 years, is the brainchild behind it. His events, HIT & RUN, have gathered steam as one of the most respected bass music promoters in Manchester. But in 2015, Rich wanted to do more.

“Helping others, it’s how my parents raised me,” he says. “A lot of my early memories are doing fundraisers with my mum for the local hospital – I admired my parents, they’ve done a lot for others, and I just knew the need was there.”

Mixing music with purpose started long before Food for Thought for Rich. In 2001, he ran a club night at university, which raised money for African schools. “I’ve always done these nights in the past, but what was obvious to me was that this was needed closer to home,” he says. 

“Manchester has been a good home to me – I think it’s a chance to give back and bring together talented musicians who want to be generous to their city.”

May 2022 was the most recent Food for Thought event, having run it annually for the past seven years. They donated 700kg worth of food and toiletries, £440 in cash, and raised another £4,344 for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

“It’s just got bigger every year,” Rich tells Smiley News. Originally starting as a club night, the last four incarnations of Food for Thought have been day festivals. 

“The great thing about Manchester all the artists are very community-minded,” says Rich, “and we have people willing to play for free.

“People connect with the idea that they can queue up with pasta, beans and pot noodles,” continues Rich, “there’s a funny image of people in the queue with bags and shopping – a lot of people buy tickets and still bring food.”

An unexpected benefit of running the nights is getting to know the people who work at the food banks, says Rich, as well as getting an insight into their work, their situation, and why these banks are so needed. “Because the demand for them is only getting worse,” he adds. 

“There are more food banks in this country than McDonald’s, which is a frightening statistic,” explains Rich. “In 2010, 10,000 people needed food banks. In 2022, that figure is closer to three million. Everyone is feeling the pinch so much – and these food banks keep running out of food.”

Over the years, donations have gone to local food banks including Salford, Manchester Central, as well as some additional fundraising for the Trussell Trust. 

Will Food for Thought continue? “I’ll certainly keep on doing this every year,” says Rich. Some people are more cynical about where their charity money goes now, he adds, “but there’s no way anyone thinks I’m sat at home on a mountain of baked beans!” 

This article aligns with the UN SDG Zero Hunger and No Poverty.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs