Social Justice

Food from cancelled Mercury Prize will feed homeless people after nominee Self Esteem steps in

When the prestigious Mercury Prize ceremony was cancelled, hundreds of meals were left in the kitchen. Until Self Esteem got involved

Under One Sky founder Mikkel Juel Iversen with Punjab kitchen porter Francis and volunteer Leila Al-Baldawi. Image: Ben Harding

Hundreds of meals prepared for stars attending the Mercury Prize bash will now feed people experiencing homelessness after nominee Self Esteem stepped in to stop the food going to waste.

The prestigious music award ceremony was set to take place on Thursday but was postponed following the death of the Queen.

As will be the case with many other events facing sudden cancellation, it meant there was a huge amount of food going spare – about 500 gourmet meals. And thanks to the Prioritise Pleasure artist, who is up for the award with the likes of Little Simz, Harry Styles and Sam Fender, they will now be dished out by homeless outreach group Under One Sky this weekend.

It all started when Self Esteem, real name Rebecca Lucy Taylor, tweeted: “DONATE THE FUCKING FOOD” and posted a callout on Twitter to find someone with the storage facilities to take it on. Event organisers had not publicly stated their plans for the unused food but the positive side of social media swung into action.

The appeal found its way to Amrit Maan, owner of Punjab in Covent Garden, who immediately got in touch with Taylor. Punjab is the UK’s oldest north Indian restaurant and works with numerous homelessness charities, including Under One Sky, so was the perfect fit.

“We have staff in the kitchen into the early hours so we despatched a van and a manager and an assistant to pick it up from Hammersmith,” Maan told the Big Issue. “We got 17 trays of chicken breast, potatoes and veg.”

Now the chefs are working on preparing dishes that can be taken out by Under One Sky on Saturday morning. The charity has three locations in King’s Cross, Soho and Embankment, each feeding up to 90 people.

“It’s a beautiful story and we’re just one small link in the chain,” Maan told the Big Issue. “It just shows how we all need to come together to solve this problem. It’s a real concern, customer numbers [for charity food] have been rising over the last few months and I expect them to rise more with costs.”

Taylor took to Twitter after the successful appeal and urged people to visit Punjab.

“She’s now my biggest fan,” joked Maan.

Mikkel Juel Iversen, who founded Under One Sky in 2012, was doing outreach work with over 100 volunteers when he heard of the donation.

He told the Big Issue: “It’s nice to know what was Harry Styles’ truffle chicken is now going somewhere else. That’s what our organisation is all about. Everyone is equal and everyone should be treated the same.

“This food has gone from what most people see as the most prestigious tables in the world to a place where someone doesn’t have a table to eat it off. It makes the world a smaller place and that has happened from that one tweet.”

The Mercury Prize has been contacted for comment.

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