Stroud Farmers’ Market Needs Syrian Cuisine

As of the latest census 115,000 (or thereabouts) people live in the Stroud District. It’s not the world’s most cosmopolitan area, but it’s full of diverse, accepting people. Sure, there are one or two pubs where darts seem to hang mid-air when a non-local walks in, but in my extensive research not one of them is actively unwelcoming.

But it’s about time we addressed The London Problem. These out-of-towners coming here, with their ToffRoaders and odd ways, buying all the best cuts at the Farmers’ Market. The result of the general election proves that UKIP doesn’t go far enough, and if we don’t stop these cross country immigrants heading over to the Five Valleys for the unspoilt air, soon there won’t be enough to go around.

Again, I’ve done thorough, faultless research. There are at least 10 families that have moved from outside Gloucestershire into Chalford, in search of “a better life”. Children are polluting the purring burr of thick Gloucestershire brogue with jarring estuary ‘English’ in classrooms across the district. Mothers are taking part-time jobs, in some cases even creating jobs to satisfy their lust to turn the High Streets of Stroud, Dursley and Nailsworth into some sort of ‘Little London’.

If we don’t stop this now, our culture will be diluted beyond repair. We almost lost the cheese-rolling because of this ridiculous notion of mass-media, better we roll-up check points on the constituency boundaries, issue ID cards and keep the filthy hoards at bay. Outsiders, and I’ve done wide-ranging research, bring absolutely nothing, and history proves me right.

I could labour this point, probably already have, but as a resident of both Stroud and Iraqi Kurdistan, I want to appeal to our community here. I’ve seen, in the last four years, the effect of the complicated war in Syria, and subsequently Iraq. People that have sought sanctuary anywhere away from the conflict.

For some, that sanctuary is in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where hundreds of thousands are living in camps where they survive. There is no thought of a future, and hope is a scare commodity. In temperatures nearing 50C this summer, resource-heavy air coolers were at best discouraged, at worst banned – both water and electricity hungry, they are wasteful in a region short on both.

Iraq hosts 4 million refugees and internally displaced people. Rather than the numbers, it’s best to look at the language. A refugee is someone much more than a migrant. I’m a migrant. Despite what friends and acquaintances may say, I’m not actively fleeing something. In fact, I’m a lifestyle migrant, living in Iraq because it, on the whole, suits me – I’m enjoying a career change I would have found far more difficult in the UK, and I’m learning about another culture, doing my best to assimilate and bring the best of my upbringing to a strange country without imposing what I think is right.

However, it was my choice. Those people boarding trains in Budapest? They don’t see a choice. They survived perilous trips across the Mediterranean, ploughing life savings into the pockets of unscrupulous traffickers, all for a little hope. Look to Turkey, where millions are already camped, Lebanon where the population is almost half refugees. Jordan which has accepted refugees for years, where the second largest city is essentially a tent encampment. These people don’t have the means to go any further, and if they could, they would.

People move because they are scared, and Europe is the safest, closest place to come. They want a future for their children, and are willing to risk the lives of them to get here. And guess what? If they’re spending $5,000 per person to risk this, they know how to make money. For all the people that believe that these hopeless people are seeking light in Europe merely to hit the non-existent benefits gravy train, give them an opportunity to shine.

And it’s about time The London Problem was challenged. For too long lattes and mochas have been the drink of Stroud High Street – it’s time for glasses of sweet chai and refreshing icy ayran to offer an alternative. The tasty Thai noodles of the Farmers’ Market must go up in a head-to-head-everyone-wins battle against freshly prepared tabouleh and babaganoosh.

So I propose the Stroud district welcomes its fair share of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. I’ve done the maths, and it’s terrifying.

Let’s go crazy and say the UK takes in 100,000 refugees. Hold the ‘paper still, I felt your shudder. Let’s say combined districts with a population of 15 million are for some reason unable to take refugees. So 100,000 divided by 50 million is a satisfying 0.002

Stroud’s population is about 115,000 as I said up top. 0.002 x 115,000 = 230

These figures are the absolute most absurd I could reasonably come up with.

To be humans, to care and to respond to a crisis none of us can, or would ever hope to, imagine, we need to find room for 230 people.

Sorry, not find room. We need to welcome 230 people, learn from them, support them and enrich our society – oh and feel good. Because this is the stuff of life.

Let’s make Stroud a beacon of hope, acceptance and fearlessness.