Global Grub – a youth participation story

Global Grub – a youth participation story

If you were to ask someone what Global Grub involves who had no prior knowledge of the project, they might correctly guess it involves food from different cultures. Less obvious is the project’s link to mental health, but a desire to deliver proactive work on mental health motivated the creation of Global Grub. As the title suggests, we also believe the project is a fine example of youth participation.

The Mental Health Connection

Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2021, we challenged the young people accessing our services to design a project based on the Five Ways to Wellbeing. The ‘Five Ways’ are five things that everyone can do to strengthen their mental wellbeing. In a way, this was partly an academic exercise: it’s main objective, to see if the young people understood the ‘Five Ways’ framework.

The young people presented their ideas to each other, and one stood out above all others – not least because the other young people in attendance also thought it was brilliant. Their idea was to learn to cook food from different cultures during the summer holidays – a time when many felt their mental health was at its lowest due to social isolation. They suggested a cooking project would help them to Connect with other people. By cooking food from different cultures, the young people would be Learning, and finally, through exposure to new dishes, they would be more Mindful due to a raised awareness of new flavours and scents. As the project has evolved, we have integrated new ad hoc ways of learning, for example this month (Easter ’24), the young people have the opportunity to learn to DJ and paint henna. An additional ‘way to wellbeing’ has also been integrated via being active: for example, this month, team games like dodgeball have also been integrated into the programme. In keeping with the broader ethos of Global Grub, these are young people’s ideas.


As must have been clear by now, youth voice was at the forefront of this project’s development. Building on the initial excitement from that first week when the young people had conceived the idea for Global Grub, we spent the following weeks both listening to the young people’s ideas so that they could shape the project (for example it was in one of those sessions that they came up with the name “Global Grub”), but also training the young people in skills so that they could assist with the search for funding to actually get the project off the ground.

Youth voice and participation has been at the forefront of the continued development of the project and has led to some special twists on its delivery, such as retiming the cooking sessions to coincide with Iftar during Ramadan. Other, modifications have included Global Grub picnics, where we take the food to the park and the young people assemble it themselves, making wraps and salads.

Another area of the project that young people have led is promotion. We have found the most effective approach is for young people to record pieces ‘talking to the camera’ promoting what is going to happen. These clips are then shared on range of social media platforms. Not only does this promote the project, but it also supports new skills development for the young people involved.


The young people had a vision for the project in May, but where could we find funding? Their idea coincided with the launch of an NHS Innovation Fund and Frimley ICB awarded the project £5,000. Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford successfully campaigned for young people entitled to Free School Meals to have similar rights during school holidays. The opportunities presented by these two funding streams allowed us to deliver our first Global Grub in July and August of that year. In subsequent years, the HAF Fund has been a vital source of funding, as has been generous donations from Stoke Park.

Key Ingredients

As is so often the case with youth work projects, the right staff are integral to the successful running of the project. Kevin Muhammad has been key to the success of the project. Kevin cut his teeth in a range of commercial kitchens before starting to run his own courses and he later became a home economics teacher at Windsor Boys’ School. Kevin has a fantastic rapport with the young people accessing our services. Finding any teacher who could teach the young people was challenging – most are looking forward to their holidays, when Global Grub takes place – so to find one with Kevin’s qualities was an astounding piece of luck.

Kevin has been ably supported by our youth workers and have spent enough time with Kevin that though he is unable to join us this Easter, they have learned enough from him to ‘hold the fort.’ This would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago and highlights how much he has built our capacity. Indeed, in December 2021, we were faced with that very challenge as Kevin tested positive for COVID on the eve of four days of Global Grub. Thankfully at this point we had 19 months experience of online youth work. We simply dropped off the ingredients at the young people’s homes and met them online, where Kevin felt well enough to instruct them how to cook on Zoom.

Another key ingredient of the project is a venue. This has not always been the easiest aspect of the project. Initially we put a makeshift kitchen into the YES Shop – a pop up venue in the local shopping centre. The venue was ideal for us – centrally located, with a recreation room off the main kitchen for activities. When the Queensmere shut this side of the shopping centre we needed to look further afield. We relocated to Weekes Drive Community Centre in Cippenham. This took us away from the centre but was an easier location for pick-ups and drop offs. It was also prohibitively expensive. It led us to our latest destination in Kedermister Park, Langley, a venue owned by the Guides. The venue has a sizeable kitchen and a decent sized hall we can use for various activities. The park has a reputation for violence and antisocial behaviour so there is also a sense that we are in the right location, to bring something positive to an area which needs it.


We have a lot of equipment, and this is an ingredient which cannot be underestimated. The key reason for this, is that if the project was simply about giving the young people food, a few industrial sized pans would have sufficed. But the project has always sought to ensure the young people can reproduce the dishes at home, and if they were only familiar with, for example, making a small contribution to an industrial process, they couldn’t recreate the recipes. Instead, every young person goes through all the steps themselves, and if that means that seven young people are cooking at the same time and it’s a recipe requiring two pans, we need fourteen pans in total. It is easy to see how an abundance of equipment is important.

The Recipes

Global Grub is run during the school holidays in Easter (one week), Summer (four weeks) and Christmas (one week). The dishes are determined in consultation with young people. They create a long list and Kevin, Sanna and Aida establish what can be achieved in a one-hour cooking session.

We had intended to create a cookbook for the young people, of the recipes they created. However, the young people told us quite directly that any such books would gather dust and not be looked at. Rather, they advocated for the creation of TikToks which would allow the young people to remember and follow the recipes in future, in a much more interesting way. At the time of writing, Global Grub recipes have attracted over a thousand views!

Famous Supporters and Royal Participation

As noted above, the project was no stranger to leveraging to power of social media, most significantly with promotional work on YouTube and recipes on TikTok. We also used Instagram, Facebook, and X to advertise the project. Marcus Rashford made one of our Global Grub tweets our most shared tweet ever when he retweeted it from his official account, resulting in over 230,000 views. Even more impressively, in January 2023, HRH Prince William visited Together As One to learn more about our work and took part in a Global Grub cooking session.

HRH Prince William gets involved in Global Grub cooking with Inaaya and Daisha.

HRH Prince William gets involved in Global Grub cooking with Inaaya and Daisha.

Views of Third Parties

Donna Sheldon visited Global Grub on behalf of the Department for Education in August 2023. We were delighted she took the time to really engage with the young people and joined us for some food. She was impressed with that she saw and invited Together As One to be a part of a best practice Bite Size Learning clip for HAF Providers. The clip can be seen below with the focus on Slough from 12:48:


Global Grub pre-dates our move to the fantastic Upshot system, which analyses data so straightforwardly for us. However, we can take 2023 as a snapshot to give readers an understanding of the scale of young people’s involvement and the diversity of the young people who have chosen to get involved. 128 young people took part in Global Grub. The average age of the participants was 14. The young people were from six different faiths and eighteen different ethnicities. 32 of the young people indicated they had SEND or a mental health condition.

At any given time, we struggle to exceed 7 or 8 young people in the kitchen. The optimum number of participants is probably slightly fewer at 5 or 6. The project has grown in popularity and though the young people who initially conceived the idea have started to move on, the new young people have shown a fantastic appetite for it to continue.


During the first Global Grub we asked young people to rate themselves against these key questions:

How would you rate…

  • your ability to cook different dishes?
  • knowledge of different cultures?
  • knowledge of nutrition?
  • confidence in communicating with people you don’t know?

We also used the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale to try to gain an understand of the project’s impact on mental health. Across the four areas outlined above and all but two of the areas covered in WEMWBS, the young people attested to an improvement.

Key Ingredients
  • Spaces for youth voice to inform project development.
  • Staff who are able to draw on youth work skills, as well as food technology
  • A spacious kitchen preferably with multiple ovens/hobs.
  • Plenty of equipment – the kinds of which you might find in your own home, rather than large commercial pans.
Reflections on Together As One (Aik Saath) with Saleha Latif

Reflections on Together As One (Aik Saath) with Saleha Latif

Talented poet and cultural history enthusiast Saleha Latif volunteered with Together As One (Aik Saath) as a young person to deliver anti-racism presentations in schools across Slough. She quickly found her calling working on heritage and cultural projects. Here, she chats to us about building confidence, life-changing projects and how TAO led her to a career at the Tate

When did you first engage with TAO, and how did you get involved?

I’ve always had a passion for arts and culture, so much so that as a 9-year-old I dreamed of working in a museum. A bit odd for a child, I know, but I love learning about history and how people lived. Because of this interest, I volunteered at the Slough Museum (when it was a big museum before the pods in the current library). The museum staff used to work with TAO on various projects, so that’s how I became involved. 

In 2014, the Slough Museum Learning Officer, Charlotte, left to join TAO. She invited me to join the Mygration project, where young people interviewed Slough residents from different backgrounds about their stories of moving to the town. 

I’d just moved schools for sixth form and found the transition hard. I felt I’d lost my self-confidence, but working on the project helped me feel I was a part of something. Hearing the lost stories was empowering. It solidified that I wanted to work in this field in some capacity. 

With TAO, I began to attend the volunteering meetings, slowly getting more and more involved. I delivered workshops in schools around prejudice and anti-racism. I also started attending Empoword events as a spectator before building the confidence to get behind the mic! But, the projects that dove into Slough’s history and culture really lit me up. 

Saleha performs at Poetry in the Park (2019)

Saleha performs at Poetry in the Park (2019)

You’ve worked on some amazing heritage and cultural projects interviewing different people in Slough. Can you tell us about 17,000 Reasons to Remember

The aim of 17,000 Reasons to Remember was to give a voice to the Polish fighter pilots whose stories were lost to history. They contributed to the UK war effort during WWII, yet were forgotten. We wanted to fulfil the need to tell their stories. 

This project meant a lot to me because multiculturalism is about sharing mixed stories as well as mixed faces. Existing side by side without getting to know your neighbour isn’t true multiculturalism. It’s important we recognise and understand each other. We often think racism is about skin colour, but it’s more likely xenophobia.

That’s why it was key to share these Polish stories. Even on a personal level, I learned so much about the culture and identity. 

The veterans we interviewed shared touching stories about fleeing their homes, coming to terms with their exile and fighting for the freedom of their country and the UK. I’ve always been a compassionate person (I’m the kind of person who cries at museums), so this was definitely an emotional experience I’ll never forget. 

What about Partition Women’s Voices?

This project was my baby. Partition Women’s Voices told the stories of the women who lived through the Partition of British India into India and Pakistan. 

I was lucky enough to work with TAO as a staff member for this project, which was really meaningful. If you can imagine what the 17,000 Reasons to Remember project did to me, then this was very emotionally touching! 

At the time, I was studying literature at SOAS University of London where I was already knee-deep in this world of cultural research. This project came at just the right moment. It connected me to my heritage and family in a way we hadn’t been before. All of a sudden, I was asking the women in my life hard questions about partition.

I was involved at every stage, and I poured my heart and soul into it. I guess you could call it the magnum opus of my work with TAO. I loved how much I was mentored, supported and encouraged by the team. I learned so many soft skills, like how to take notes and not be an idiot in a meeting. Everything that’s vital to my current job!

Whilst I did have the time of my life and could feel myself grow as a person, it was still very heavy. Sometimes I’d go home and cry. These women lived through such hard times but no one was thinking about them. Their stories were completely neglected. It was empowering to present their narratives and journeys to the world in a meaningful way. 

Saleha with TAO Volunteer, Aisha Khan and interviewee Pushpa Kharbanda (2017)

Saleha with TAO Volunteer, Aisha Khan and interviewee Pushpa Kharbanda (2017)

Your poem A Letter to the Town That Raised Me celebrates Slough’s vibrant community. In your opinion, what are the pillars of a good community?

I think it’s important an area reflects the people who live there. So, I’d say respect is an obvious first pillar for a good community. Then, kindness – which I think is an underappreciated virtue. As a kid, I remember shopkeepers would often let you off if you were 50p short for something. It showed real generosity.

Next, is compassion. I’m fed up with news stories that jump to conclusions and lack compassion for those involved. Not all crimes are gang-related, but saying so tarnishes people with the same brush. Having compassionate community role models, like TAO, helps change this narrative. 

Lastly, beauty and not in a vain way. Seeing trees and flowers is pretty. It shows a place is well cared for by its community. 

TAO is celebrating its 25th anniversary. What do you think has made it a standout organisation for so long? 

Someone once said to me that 1998 brought the two best things to Slough: me and TAO! 

Jokes aside, I think TAO’s commitment to learning is profound. It solves issues within communities in a holistic way. The team is great at teaching young people to go out and learn about their neighbours and get involved in their communities. 

Rob Deeks has worked for TAO since 2003, and he’s definitely one of the reasons for TAO’s continued success. He sees a problem and he’s there with his metaphorical (and sometimes physical) toolbox and asks “Okay, how do we fix this?” He makes sure to involve those affected by the issue to find the solution together. He also truly believes in TAO’s mission and helps everyone else believe in it, too. 

Everyone at TAO is brilliant at what they do. They’ve evolved into an Avengers-esque team that gives everything they have to young people and the community. They actively listen and take ideas from the youngest to the oldest, treating them with the same level of respect. Listening and sincerity aren’t appreciated today as much as they should be. 

Ultimately, TAO has stood the test of time because of the people. 

How would you like to see Slough shaped in the next 25 years? 

I’d like to see people feel more content. Society, in general, has changed so much over the years. And, Slough has unfortunately been hit the hardest by austerity. It does need money put into it to grow the community and make it a place people are proud to call home. So, I would like to see more change, but more so in attitude than physical infrastructure. 

I feel there’s a lot of yearning for a different world. But, I’d like young people to realise there is already so much more for them to do in Slough. There are so many pathways and opportunities available. For instance, I’ve met people in the creative and arts world through TAO which helped me forge a path for my career. Slough has so many links, young people just need to give it a chance. 

In the future, I hope people will see Slough without tunnel vision, but as a bigger picture of the world. When you view your area as a fishbowl, of course, it will feel restricting. But, it’s not. 

And, what’s next for you? 

At the moment, I’m working on stewardship and strategic projects for the Tate. I get to work on fundraising to keep art and culture alive while prioritising accessibility. It’s basically philanthropy. I enjoy being involved in culture and heritage (my 9-year-old self would be so proud), and I want to get cemented in this world and make more connections.

I’m still settling into my job, but eventually, I would love to work on more heritage projects with TAO and perhaps become someone’s mentor. Working in a museum is a bit of a niche thing to want to do as a kid, so I’d like to showcase the career options and help young people in Slough get their foot in the door. 

Saleha Latif lives in Slough and is a Strategic Projects and Stewardship Officer at the Tate.


Newspaper coverage of ’90s tensions in Slough

Newspaper coverage of ’90s tensions in Slough

Together As One (Aik Saath) was founded due to tensions in Slough between young Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims during the late 1990s. The scale and severity of the tensions sent shockwaves through our community. These newspaper clipping shed some light on what happened during a dark chapter in Slough’s history.

These clippings are from microfiches at The Curve (Slough Library). Consequently, the scans are not very high quality but we can still learn a lot from them.


Newspaper Headline: Violent Clashes Between Gangs

Newspaper Headline: Violent Clashes Between Gangs, The Slough Observer, 20th September 1996

  • The Sikh young people identified themselves as Shere (Lions) of the Punjab. The initials “SP” were graffitied extensively over Slough, often on roadsigns pointing towards Chalvey.
  • Part of the article focuses on the ‘neglect’ of young people by the County Council – Slough became a unitary authority in April 1998, with the abolition of Berkshire County Council.


Headline: Peace pleas after night of mayhem

Headline: Peace pleas after night of mayhem, Slough Express, 1st May 1997

This article was published several months later. The severity of the violence involved is clear with a local businessman stating that he had seen “swords, baseball bats, axes, clubs and knives.”


Headline: WPC saves severed hand in frozen veg

Headline: WPC saves severed hand in frozen veg, Slough Express, 5th November 1998

This article was published almost two years after the first and the level of violence involved is shocking. In addition to the severed hand in the headline, there are also details of a broken ankle. Interestingly, one of the victims is aged 38 – older than we might have assumed when the violence has generally been characterised as being driven by young people. The police cited a minor driving incident as being the spark behind the violence, indicating the extent of community tensions at the time.

Headline: Plea for peace after race-hate riot

Headline: Plea for peace after race-hate riot, Slough Observer, 6th November 1998

This is a piece focused on the sister of one of the men involved. She calls for peace and a de-escalation of the conflict. Perhaps calls for an end to the violence were more pronounced from women at the time. Certainly, Dr Dudley Weeks, the international mediator who advocated for the establishment of Aik Saath, felt that a gender perspective and the empowerment of women might help resolve the tensions.


Headline: Gangs blamed for Chalvey flare-up

Headline: Gangs blamed for Chalvey flare-up, Slough Express, 1st May 1999

This article was published almost three years after the first, underlying how protracted the tensions were. There is also the suggestion within the article that the attacks were quite targeted, raising the possibility that the tensions had evolved into a dispute between two select gangs with specific memberships, rather than a free-for-all involving ‘just anyone’ from the communities.