Put the date Saturday 3rd December 2022 in your diary.
Mill Road Winter Fair is run entirely by volunteers. Could you become one of the fabulous team of people who give just two hours of their time to help steward on the day of the Fair, Saturday 3rd December 2022?
Yes. Talking, with other older adults, about shared interests. On your telephone. Not Zoom. Nor Microsoft Teams. Nor FaceTime. Nor WhatsApp. Nor Skype.
Just your telephone. Landline or mobile. And it’s free! But registration is required.
COPE(Cambridgeshire Older People’s Enterprise) is delighted to announce the latest series of TALKING TOGETHER, a new initiative that brings older adults together for engaging and stimulating conversations about topics of shared interest. This free programme offers weekly telephone-based discussion groups which are joined from the comfort of your home. No special technology is needed, just your own telephone. Each group, scheduled for 45 minutes, is facilitated by skilled leaders with whom participants can share their ideas, opinions and experiences.
Do you know an older adult who doesn’t have internet access who would enjoy these phone chats? Or someone (perhaps yourself) who just prefers a chat?
Take a look at the full leaflet by clicking either of the images above.
You and/or your friend can register by filling in the form, and posting it to: COPE, St Luke’s Community Centre, Victoria Road, Cambridge CB4 3DZ (If you don’t have access to a printer, just write your details on a sheet of plain paper.)
But it’s not just parties, and not just the Jubilee…
Groups of local residents or voluntary groups can apply to the Cambridge City Council’s area committees for funding for projects, activities or services.
The priorities for Area Committee Community Grants specifically focus on reducing social and economic inequality for disadvantaged residents. Projects or activities should benefit a specific community or people living in a particular area.
The application process for the 2022/23 round of area committee funding is now open. The closing date for completed applications for groups in and around the Mill Road area is Tuesday 8th February 2022.
The Oxford-Cambridge Arc (the Arc) is a globally significant area between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. It is formed of five ceremonial counties: Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.
It supports over two million jobs, adds over £110 billion to the economy every year and houses one of the fastest growing economies in England.
There is an opportunity, recognised by government and local partners, to build a better economic, social and environmental future for the area. With high-quality, well-connected and sustainable communities making the Arc an even more beautiful place to live, work and visit.
‘High-quality’, ‘well-connected’, ‘sustainable’, ‘even more beautiful’ – what’s not to like? Or is the ‘opportunity’, no more than ‘high quality’ hot air, helping ‘well-connected’, people and PLCs ‘sustain’ high earnings?
The government has been thinking of the idea of an Oxford-Cambridge arc for over six years and this is first time the public has been asked for feedback.
Lara Davenport-Ray, Huntingdonshire Green Party
We’re getting good feedback from a wide variety of people and that will provide really helpful input to the policy propositions that we will generate over the next few months into 2022
Chris Pincher, Minister for Housing
I think it’s important, if you are going to develop such a long piece of land, you don’t leave us as a housing estate for the big cities at either end.
Business owner Philippa Shoobert, of engineering and software firm Smart Control Solutions, St Neots
I’m worried the Oxford-Cambridge arc and level of development they’re proposing is going to detract from our character as a historic town, and the rural nature of surrounding towns and villages, and I don’t think building that many houses will help us achieve our zero-carbon goals.
The Times, Guardian, Financial Times and others have reported on the concerns about China’s growing involvement in Cambridge. Residents are asking, “Is Cambridge and the Ox-Cam Arc part of China’s Belt and Road initiative?”
Wendy Blythe, Chair, Federation of Cambridge Residents’ Associations, addressing the ‘Supersize Cambridge’ event
Ms Blythe highlighted a tweet, earlier this year, by Ant Breach, senior researcher for Centre for Cities, a think tank funded by Cambridge University Chancellor, Lord Sainsbury, in which Breach said, “I make no apologies for demanding growth and a spicy hot labour market.”
People are asking, “Who are the interests promoting this ‘spicy hot labour market?'”
Wendy Blythe [ibid]
Developers and house builders?
The beneficiaries of such development will not be local people but shareholders of global companies and the losers will be the vulnerable across a broad range of species. It was a stimulating set of talks.
Who are the Arc’s ‘movers-and-shakers’?
On 21st September 2017, the creation of a new lectureship, in Chinese urban development, funded through a gift of £1m to Cambridge University’s Department of Land Economy, was announced after a signing ceremony held in Hong Kong. The donor was Justin Chiu, a director of CK Asset Holdings, which owns Greene King, the Bury St Edmunds based brewer and pub retailer.
CK Asset Holdings, a property investment company, was founded by the Hong Kong businessman Li Ka Shing and is now chaired by his son Victor, as is its sister company, CK Hutchison Holdings. The latter is another Hong Kong based conglomerate, whose UK investments include the majority of UK Power Networks, Northumbrian Water Group, the 3 mobile phone network and Hutchison Port Holdings (a private holding company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, operators of Harwich International Port, London Thamesport and Felixstowe Port, much of the freehold of the latter being owned by Trinity College).
Writing in Cambridge University Land Society Magazine 2019 (p 108), Professor Colin Lizieri, then Head of the Department of Land Economy and Grosvenor Professor of Real Estate Finance, said:
We […] welcomed Dr Li Wan as the new Chinese Urban Development lecturer (the post funded by a generous donation from Dr Justin Chiu). Li’s expertise lies in spatial modelling of cities and infrastructure. After completing his PhD (in the Architecture department at Cambridge), he has been working in the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and developing models for cities in China, in Korea and in the UK. His knowledge of modelling and the use of large digital data sets will be very valuable for both our research and teaching and complements Dr Elisabete Silva’s work with the Interdisciplinary Spatial Analysis Lab (LISA) and with Dr Thies Lindenthal’s big data work as part of our growing emphasis on technological change and transformation of urban land and property markets.
The postholder, Dr Li Wan, worked on Land Use-based Integrated Sustainability Assessment (LUISA) modelling for the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER). The modelling work, for which he was the lead from 2017-2019, was funded by the business group Cambridge Ahead and the Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority. To download a high resolution version of the CPIER Final Report (PDF), click here.
Planning for growth – the application of a new spatial equilibrium model for Cambridge and Beijing
By Dr Li Wan, University Lecturer in Chinese Urban development, Department of Land Economy BArch, MPhil, PhD (Cantab)
This short article introduces the application of a new spatial equilibrium model (LUISA) developed by Cambridge scholars for supporting the strategic planning of two fast- growing city regions – the Greater Cambridge in the UK and the Greater Beijing in China.
Greater Cambridge is an economic hot spot where growth has outpaced the rest of the UK throughout the past decade. But the economic success comes with a price: house prices have soared – the city’s average house price is now 16 times the median salary; worsening traffic congestion and air pollution is threatening the vitality of the city; and public services are being put under strain by the growing population. …
To quantify the possible futures of the Greater Cambridge city region, the modelling research started with a ‘business as usual’ scenario, assuming that the region grows according to current trends of employment growth and local plans for housing. This scenario showed that even a modest rise in jobs would lead to considerable wage pressure in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire and an unmanageable amount of in- commuting which would choke growth. The LUISA model was then used to explore a range of alternative spatial strategies that aim to balancing (sic) the growth of employment, housing and transport infrastructure:
Densification – concentrating new employment and housing within the city boundaries: this can accommodate the largest amount of jobs and people around existing and new rail hubs, but could risk worsening congestion and air quality in spite of convenient public transport access;
Fringe growth – extending urban areas around the edges of the city: this brings the highest financial returns with more modest building construction costs, but needs to use Green Belt land and will increase car use;
Dispersal – encouraging growth to go to market towns or newly created settlements beyond the Green Belt: this could spread the growth and gain social and environmental benefits, but would rely on the willingness of companies to move away from current centres of high productivity;
Transport corridors – developing new sites for jobs and housing along existing and new fast public transit services that emanate from Cambridge: this offers space for continued growth of existing business clusters while unlocking potential of new sites that could attract growth, but this requires the highest infrastructure investment.
Click the link in the citation (above) to read/download the publication cited.
But, the Ox-Cam Arc’s stated objective is to “enhance the area’s natural environment and biodiversity.” What’s wrong with that?
With a strategic approach to planning for growth, we can enhance the area’s natural environment and biodiversity, ensure communities and businesses have access to the infrastructure they need, and ensure new development is more affordable and beautiful so that it enhances places across the Arc.
David Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Ecology at the University of Oxford, representing the Stop the Arc Group, gave a keynote speech on how increasing house building in the areas linking Oxford and Cambridge by 53% to 61%, when the average need, nationally, is assessed at a 13% increase, is unsustainable for our environment. Water shortages, pollution and loss of biodiversity will be the outcome, despite planners claiming that they are going to “double nature”. It was pointed out that politicians still follow the mantra that economic growth is the gauge of societal and electoral advantage, ignoring our environment’s fitness for human habitation.
The voices of the people need to be heard loud and clear, and the government consultation has too many “leading” questions for it to deliver accurate results. That is why the campaigning group Stop the Arc has created an alternative questionnaire to that created by the government for the stage 1 consultation. The survey is quick to complete (about 5 five minutes) so PLEASE take the time to do it, and then to pass on the link to as many people as possible.
Campaign to Protect Rural England, Cambridgeshire & Peterborough
We’re abusing rivers in this country on a scale that we have never done at any point in the past. And yet, here we are, the proud possessor of 85% of the world’s total supply of chalk streams and not one of them is in good environmental health.
ITV News Anglia reporter Hannah Pettifer caught up with Feargal Sharkey on the banks of the River Lea in Hertfordshire, on Tuesday 22nd June 2021. To read a summary and view the report on the ITV News Anglia website, click here.
Spot the ‘Undertone’ of Sharkey’s contempt for the Environment Agency…
See also, The Oxford-Cambridge Arc; An Environmental Catastrophe – with Professor David Rogers.
Anyone for Greenwashing?
As we rebuild our economic life, we should do it on green principles, averting a crisis many times greater than the coronavirus: climate breakdown and the collapse of our life-support systems.
This means no more fossil fuel-based infrastructure. Even existing infrastructure, according to climate scientists, could push us past crucial thresholds. It means an end to megaprojects whose main purpose is enriching construction companies.
Perhaps the definitive example of such projects in the UK is the Oxford-Cambridge Arc. It’s a plan to build a conurbation of 1 million homes – twice the size of Birmingham – from Oxford to Cambridge. This is far beyond the region’s housing demand. Its purpose, government agencies admit, is not to meet the need for homes, but “to maximise [the area’s] economic potential”.
But [recently], a new campaign came to the rescue. It has rebranded the project “Nature’s Arc”. Apparently, with some adjustments, this massive exercise in concrete pouring “could show how development can restore nature, rather than destroy it”. Building up to a million homes, the new PR blitz tells us, is “the perfect opportunity to invest in nature, improve people’s lives and realise the green recovery.”
Cambridge and the surrounding area has always been a great place to live. But what will it be like in 20 years? The city is facing a period of huge change. The local population is growing and getting older. There is an urgent need for more housing. Resources are under pressure. And transport networks are becoming increasingly congested.
Two of CambridgePPF’s trustees – Matthew Bullock and Peter Landshoff – are members of the Cambridge Ahead board and are helping to put together its initial projects. Matthew Bullock is a member of the project group looking to ‘Clarify The Growth Agenda’ and Peter Landshoff is involved in the body’s work to ‘Improve the Quality of Life’ in the city.
Business, enterprise and employment are flourishing in Greater Cambridge. But housing and infrastructure are struggling to match the jobs boom, and gaps in social equality keep widening.
University academics are connecting their insights, data and algorithms to find solutions to the area’s ‘growing pains’.
“Economic growth is like a bonfire,” says Matthew Bullock. “You can get a bonfire going and expand it as long as you keep feeding the centre. But you can’t pick a bonfire up and move it somewhere else.”
Bullock is talking about the economy of Greater Cambridge, where a staggering level of growth has outpaced the rest of the UK over the past decade. As one of the founders of the business and academic organisation Cambridge Ahead, Bullock has been helping to shape a vision for Cambridge and the people who live and work in the area.
“Growth here comes up through the floorboards,” says Bullock, who was one of the original financiers of the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ – the development and growth in high-tech businesses in and around the city since the late 1970s – and is now Master of St Edmund’s College.
The debate about growth around Cambridge is still far from settled.
The government wants growth because it yields more tax revenues to pay for pensions, healthcare and all the other public services without raising tax rates. Why Cambridge? Because jobs here are, roughly speaking, more profitable than elsewhere in the country. In part that is because of the concentration of talent and new ideas within the university, research and start-up ecosystem.
What is happening to bus services around Cambridge?
Stagecoach East is far from unique in having staffing problems – and they’re not the only operator to have been cancelling services recently as a consequence. In order to (try to) provide a little more stability for passengers, they will be implementing a number of changes to Cambridge-area services from Sunday 24th October.
With passenger numbers below pre-Covid levels, some operators are reducing journeys on higher frequency routes in order to minimise the number of drivers required. This runs counter to the ethos of the Bus Recovery Grant and to the needs of passengers. In marginal and rural areas where services were already basic, the impact is particularly severe with people now struggling to access work, education, apprenticeships and healthcare.
“We need to give people better transport choices.And fast.”
‘Slow travel’ is all the rage in the Sunday colour supplements, but has less of a pull when balancing up how to get from Cambridge to Huntingdon on an overcast Wednesday morning in October. We know there’s an urgent need to reduce the number of journeys made by private car, which means making the change a realistic option for more people. So it seemed like a good idea to remind myself what the bus journey was like.
Unsurprisingly, the trip showed how much more investment and imagination is needed in public transport.
Recent statements by the Government and Tory think tanks seek to justify their repeated attacks on the planning system as a contribution to the Levelling Up agenda of the Johnson government. [However] planning reforms will do nothing to level up or reduce glaring geographical inequalities in our country: in fact, they will make these disparities even worse.
In 2021 we are facing the challenge of possible new planning ‘reforms’ based upon […] the idea that planning is the reason for falling housing affordability so relaxations of planning will provide the solution.
[M]ore planning permissions will lead developers and land owners to develop more and bring prices down. It has yet to be explained why developers should continue to build when selling prices are falling, indeed they seem to be adept at avoiding ever doing that by trickling-out their completions slowly enough to maintain high selling prices.
But what planning reforms would support long term locality improvement for the worst hit areas? We can state six broad criteria to start with:
Reforms must give localities public steering strength, by withdrawing the recent rash of permitted development rights (which strip places and communities of power) and ensuring local plans can take back control of how space is used.
Within localities, reforms must strengthen the roles played by citizens and communities, without whose active creativity and support neither Levelling Up nor adequate response to the climate emergency will be possible.
Reforms must enable decisions at the right level, by creating strong strategic plans for economic development and housing with long term funding attached.
Planning must make public health a key objective of decisions about new development.
Reforms must make zero-carbon a core requirement of every Plan and every substantialplanning application decision.
Social housing & special needs housing should be prioritised to help reverse themechanism which makes housing worsen inequality.
The Ox-Cam Arc and the growth of Cambridge are issues which affect us all – those living in and around Mill Road, in Cambridge, all of the surrounding villages and our nearby market towns. The post is open for contributions. You are welcome to continue the debate.
… to raise funds for local community-based Cambridge Sustainable Food’s food justice work across the city.
Cambridge Sustainable Food provide food justice work across the city. They work with residents, businesses, organisations and community groups to advocate for, and enable access to, healthy and sustainably produced food that is good for people and good for the planet.
Tackling food-related inequality is one of today’s most urgent challenges if we are to stem the rising tide of hunger, obesity and other diet-related ill-health such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Cambridge Sustainable Food convenes Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance, a multi-agency partnership which aims to reduce food poverty locally. Read more about this work here, the emergency food access here, and read/download the Covid-19 Emergency Food Response April 2020 – March 2021 (PDF) here.
Maurizio is on the run!
Mill Road’s godfather of pizza and pasta is taking part in the Cambridge Half Marathon on Sunday 17th October 2021.
You can help Maurizio raise funds for local community-based Cambridge Sustainable Food’s food justice work across the city and reach his £500 target by donating what you can via his GoFundMe page, here.
Eat for our Future Campaign
Food poverty is only one aspect of Cambridge Sustainable Food’s work. Food needs to be not only good for people and the planet, but also good for local economies, businesses and jobs.
As part of the newly launched Eat for our Future Campaign Cambridge Sustainable Food will be holding a variety of events across October to help Cambridge eat a Climate Diet, with in-person stalls where you can ask your questions and make a pledge, online events chaired by local sustainable food experts to guide you to a diet that is kinder to the planet, and running seminars for businesses to help them serve food for the future.
YOU & I is the debut single by Lorenza Wildcard, who has been a Mill Roader since returning to the UK from a career break on the Spanish island of Menorca in November 2019.
Born out of a woman’s need to give voice to her feelings following her marriage break-up, the song conveys Wildcard’s raw emotions in honest lyrics which she hopes will help others who are experiencing the same grief.
After the break-up, just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck the UK, the Italian-born media graduate of London Metropolitan University and ex- Londoner found herself alone through lockdown. A recipe for going-stir crazy, you might think, but Wildcard struck up socially-distanced friendships with neighbours in one of the area’s friendliest streets. And she discovered a new talent when she decided to set her feelings down on paper as a way to process the emotional turmoil.
Just 24 hours after writing YOU & I – her first song – and recording her vocals and guitar accompaniment on her mobile phone, Wildcard was approached by producer Ettore della Campa who loved the song and saw potential in her heartfelt vocal style. Della Campa provided studio time to enable Wildcard to record YOU & Iprofessionally. View an excerpt from the video here…
YOU & I – a classic pop ballad with a modern feel– is an uplifting and empowering story told by a promising new singer-songwriter. It aims to speak to all the lost and broken souls whose confidence and self-belief have been shaken to the core. Using powerful lyrics, gritty vocals, and beautiful harmonies Lorenza Wildcard hopes to inspire others to take back control of their lives and follow their dreams.
I wanted to tell my story and share what I went through in the hope that it would reach, help and empower other women who are in a similar situation. I have learnt that I am not alone and a breakup is not going to shake the foundations of who I am, because I am many things – not just a partner. I have grabbed my chances with both hands and I have cut my own path in search of my very own realisation.
This whole experience started by chance and it has been great fun, but I have made it my choice to be where I am today by being true to myself and working hard to get better, and perhaps that also brought me luck.
YOU & I, has been available to stream and download on all major music platforms including iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer and Tidal, since Friday 28th May 2021.
We were saddened to learn today – Wednesday 21st April 2021 – of the passing of popular Mill Road restaurateur, Foudil Rerizani.
Foudil had been living with cancer for some while, but his health declined rapidly over the last few weeks.
Cambridge University educated Foudil established the much loved, ever-popular Al Casbah restaurant, at 62 Mill Road, in 1997 as one of the first Charcoal grill restaurants in East Anglia, specialising in marinated grilled meats and fish, with the grill – and leaping flames – eye-catchingly positioned by the front window. The quirky charm of the establishment led to it being described in a Les Routiers review as “un per decentré”.
Al Casbah has since been passed down from father to sons – Karim, Samir, Yacine, Nacer and Djamel – who continue the family tradition of serving fresh North African cuisine.
While the boys were growing up, Foudil provided the boys with their own games hall ‘hangout’, open to all, at 98–100 Mill Road, which kept them out of trouble. Since 2011 the premises have been home to Bedouin, the family’s other Mill Road restaurant, replete with a real Bedouin tent and wall rugs from the Sahara, serving traditional tagines and couscous dishes from across the Maghreb.
As well as being a successful restaurateur, Foudil was a good friend of Mill Road especially other café, restaurant and catering proprietors in the area, to whom he lent his expertise. Our thoughts are with his family and many friends. He will be sadly missed and fondly remembered.
To renew the installation of a temporary real-ice ice rink with viewing platform and back-of-house/plant area; a family entertainment area with children’s rides & food concessions; and a christmas market with stalls & concessions, to one quadrangle of Parkers Piece.
Whilst the planning portal lists the ‘Neighbour Consultation Expiry Date’ as Wednesday 24th February 2021, the portal appears to remain open for comments at the date of posting, with the latest comments dated 15th March 2021. The Cambridge City Council Planning meeting at which this application will be considered is scheduled for Wednesday 24th March 2021 at 10.00 am.
What do Mill Road people think?
One local resident emailed us saying:
The Fair and Ice rink will run from 1st November to 31st January. That’s three months of repetitive loud Christmas music and high-pitched screams.
For local residents, hotel guests and students it’s extremely annoying especially for those now working from home. It will also be bigger this time (see application plan online). The organisers also pay a fraction of the rent which Mill Road’s traders pay. They have a Christmas market and food outlets that takes business away from local shops and cafés.
It also badly damages the grass: 14 months after the last North Pole nearly a fifth of Parker’s Piece still hasn’t recovered and that’s despite the council treating the area with new soil and grass seed last summer. It would obviously be a lot worse if the event had gone ahead at Christmas 2020. The area is not fit for its intended purpose – football, social gatherings, boot camps, etc – and looks and feels like scrubland.
This historic City park deserves better care.
Elsa, local resident
Elsa illustrated her objection with photographs. There are shown in the slideshow below.
Whereas a local trader wrote to us in support:
I am always cheered when I see the funfair there in the depths of winter. Seeing and hearing young people having fun is wonderful.
No-one would be using that bit of park in the depths of winter and, in any case, there is still loads more space to use. Presumably the larger and longer the attraction, the more money that goes into the council’s coffers.
I am in favour of the winter attraction in its larger, longer state.
Eileen, local trader
Here are a flavour of the comments on the planning portal.
The North Pole is not in keeping with the area and the direction in which the area is set to develop in, nor does it truly add to any Christmas spirit. In fact it is quite an eyesore.
There are other opportunities that could generate revenue for the council in a way, that is not as damaging to the environment and disruptive to the public, and would also be adding value to the city and community and liven up the park during the festive period.
St Pauls Walk resident
The ice rink on Parker’s piece is a very good thing for all of Cambridge. Children and young people deserve to be able to have some fun. It was sadly missed 2020 so it will be great to have it back 2021/22.
Mill Road resident
I object to this proposal because it is a poor use of what is normally a lovely open space. The noise it generates is awful – endless generators, music from the rides etc etc. Now more than ever, we need a peaceful environment in which to live and work – I can’t begin to imagine how awful it must be to live closer than we do.
It also totally destroys the grass, year after year. It never really recovers (the space where it was 2 years ago is now still mainly weeds). Local residents so value the ability to walk over the park, but it’s awful when it’s all mud, as it is for months after (& during – gets so muddy around the installation).
Nothing should be allowed to remain on the site for more than a few days (normal fairs/ concerts/ gigs are great – an excellent use of the space! ) but this lasts for months on end. It’s too long. People need to use the grass for sport and recreation and this Ice Rink prevents a good deal of that.
Please don’t allow this planning permission to be accepted.
Lyndewode Road resident
This application is for 3 months of the year. There are other various events which may amount to another couple of months making ~ 5 all told. Parker’s Piece needs be left clear and open. That was its reason for existence.
Equally, there is no doubt a reason for its creeping closure – profit. No doubt Star Radio and the Council coffers do not have to bear the consequences such as increased parking pressure in the area as people try to avoid paying car park charges, increased noise and occasionally an increase in local law-breaking. I suggest the creeping closure of Parker’s Piece be halted. Use other venues (e.g. Newmarket Road for a rink?)
Guest Road resident
It used to be relatively charming – a small ice rink where you could go with the children for a pre-Christmas skate to get into the spirit of Christmas & perhaps get a cup of coffee afterwards. However, over the past couple of years it has been allowed to expand physically, as well as in terms of time, and is now enormous and totally ruins the atmosphere of Parkers Piece for the majority of us, attracting light pollution, noise, litter and antisocial behaviour.
It is allowed to run for weeks and weeks and Parkers Piece and its residents/visitors have to bear the scars for many months afterwards. It totally ruins the enjoyment of what is supposed to be a haven in the middle of an already very busy, congested city.
Out-of-city (Withersfield) resident
To to view all comments – and add your own, for or against – visit the Greater Cambridge Shared Planning portal and enter 20/03552/FUL in the search box. (The portal’s reCAPTCHA setting prevents direct access to individual applications.)
You are welcome to leave comments at the foot of this post, but nothing published on this website will be taken into consideration at the Cambridge City Council Planning meeting at which this application will be considered, on Wednesday 24th March 2021 at 10.00 am.
Faraj Alnasser is a Syrian refugee who lives with a local family, off Cambridge’s Mill Road, who have taken care of him like a son. “Cambridge has become a home for me, because of this very kind family,” Faraj told us by email.
At just 14 years old, while Faraj’s family were refugees in Egypt, following an insurmountable family rift, Faraj left his family and made his way back to Syria, where he found his former family home bombed out.
After spells in Iraq, in Syria (again) and Turkey (where Faraj learned Turkish) he took the bus to Sofia, Bulgaria, followed a circuitous route through Austria and Germany, finally reaching the Channel coast, where he escaped to the UK by hiding in a refrigerated lorry, in which he nearly died from hyperthermia.
Faraj has now been living in the UK for over 5 years.
In 2016, following a spell in a refugee holding centre, Faraj was offered accommodation by a local family, has learned English at a local language school, and developed his cookery skills.
Faraj has been cooking at Honey and Co, after training at Ottolenghi in London. Thanks to lockdown – a very small silver lining – Faraj is now back in Cambridge and has started cooking his delicious Middle Eastern food for delivery to your house.
The menu includes some old favourites – after eating real Aleppo hummus you will never be satisfied by supermarket hummus again – and some less familiar dishes from his mother’s kitchen in Syria. All the dishes are from local ingredients and everything is vegetarian or vegan – and wonderful.
Bread – including challah and pittas – is freshly baked, and if you have never had pistachio challah, it is very highly recommended, for Shabbat or any day.
We welcome Faraj’s contribution to the abundance of worldwide authentic food to be found along Cambridge’s Mill Road. Why order from a mundane multiple? Mill Road can offer much better than their banal burgers and prosaic pizzas!