Tom Herbert, baker and entrepreneur, is right: environmentalists seem to be a lot more focussed on ways of growing food locally and sustainably, to contribute to the balanced diets that we need, than they are on how best to make this food available locally – in restaurants, pop-ups, community centres and so on.

Tom is one of an inspirational group of people behind The Long Table – a commercially viable, community-based restaurant on the outskirts of Stroud which started up in 2018 – with every hot meal served on a pay-as-you-can basis.

I met with him for the first time a few weeks ago – on the recommendation of a good friend of mine who knows that green evangelists like me need to see things working for real, meeting the needs of real people in real communities.

It was indeed very inspiring. There are 50 people employed on site at the Brimscombe Mill in four separate Community Interest Companies (The Long Table itself, a cycle repair shop, a second-hand furniture exchange, and an amazing recycling hub for kids clothes, books and toys), with all four working together in one shared enterprise.

Tom was kind enough to mention that The World We Made (which I wrote more than a decade ago as a “vision” of how much better things could be if we just put our hearts and minds to it) was something that inspired him. Though he did point out that I had said nothing in the World We Made about local restaurants, food distribution systems etc!

As I heard for myself, there have been buckets of sweat equity involved in getting it all onto a solid footing.  So, it came as one hell of a shock to Tom and his colleagues when their landlord served notice on them – with a more financially lucrative tenant apparently in play. It may not come to that.  Negotiations are ongoing. Good sense may yet prevail.

And the common wealth so lovingly created by the Long Table and its sister CICs may well be serving the interests of their local community for many, many years to come.  “Radical hospitality – feeding change, one bite at a time”.


They’ve just published a new Social Impact Report – a model of its kind. Do please check it out!