Monday, 20 March 2017

SpringClean and a pizza celebration to end a great day

Some time ago when Big Lottery Fund Wales offered community groups the chance to get up to £2000 towards a celebration, we thought what's the catch? The answer was none. We've never really celebrated the work which we've done on the LNR, but we thought well why not. Not long after submitting an application we found out we were successful.

The largest part of the grant was a branded gazebo, a portable pizza oven and £600 on food, drinks and associated sundries. Our 3 m x 3 m, Pro-50 gazebo from Gala tents arrived ages ago, but stayed away in its case for a long time, until we put it up just before the event. Even then, on the day was the first time we put one of the side panels up. Unlike our cheapo Draper gazebo which broke at the Henllys fete 2 years ago (at its first outing), this one is very, very sturdy, easy to put up and take down and will hopefully last us many years.
The oven was the longest wait. When we first thought we'd like a pizza oven which we wanted a portable on and there were a few options. Most of them were around 70-100 kg which wasn't quite portable enough for us and they take an hour to warm up. Then there were some cheaper ones like the Uuni II which Lakeland sells. The Uuni looked good, but it only ran on wood pellets, which we thought was a limitation for us. By chance, we came across Roccbox who were a croudfunded company and we really liked how it looked, its size, weight and how it comes with a wood burning and gas burning attachment. As it was croudfunded, it took a long time for our batch to made and send to us (4 months), but it was totally worth the wait. we had a "few" trial sessions before our celebration event and it warms up in 20 minutes (compared to an hour or so for a traditional pizza oven, its compact size means it uses less fuel and as it gets so hot (500 degrees C) it cooks pizzas in 1.5 - 2 minutes.
The big advantage of the Roccbox is that we can have a quick turnaround if we have a big group. We knew we would do this as we wanted to celebrate the difference which Henllys CIW and 1st Henllys Cubs and Beavers have made to us and to the LNR in general. The £600 (minus some extra safety gear and tools) should keep us in pizza for the rest of the year. One of the things we wrote about in the application was using wood which we harvest from the LNR to fuel the oven, so that should be quite exciting too.

So while the #SpringCleanCymru #TorfaenSpringClean litterpick was taking place Tricia (our food safety hygiene ninja) and Nic started getting all the prep area set up and I joined them after about 45 minutes of litterpicking and making sure everyone was OK. After about 1.5 hours people started coming back to the car park with all the bags of rubbish. We encouraged everyone to wash their hands in Henllys Rangers FC changing room and to gel rub sanitise them afterwards and that is when the fun started with the food and drink.

Our very first pizza as part of the Celebration event
It was the first time we'd ever hung around after an event to do anything like this really and it gave everyone a good opportunity to have a chat to one another.
Those gabion pins and tape came in handy to secure the hot zone
Tricia, Bri and Nic were superstars with rolling out the dough from Greenmeadow Community Farm and getting the toppings ready... 
The production line and committee: Nic, Brian and Tricia. This was at the end of the event when we could let our hair (and aprons) down
...and the pizzas went in and came out the Roccbox as quickly as advertised. The feedback from everyone over the pizzas was amazing including "best pizza ever" by 3 different people.

and the committee all managed to get theirs after everyone else finished.
Just like a brochure! Not Welsh cakes made by Brian's wife.
It was one of the hardest events we have ever run, but it was also one of the most rewarding. We are unbelievably grateful to Big Lottery Fund Wales for the opportunity to do something like this. It made us all feel really good about what we have done on the LNR over the years and the support we have for this locally.

Importantly for us as a group, it was our last ever event with Tricia, our friend and secretary, but what an exit eh Tricia? We will truly miss you.

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