Health and wellbeing

Healthy cooking classes are feeding community spirit in west London

Move over Heston Blumenthal, look what Heston West have cooked up!

Do you prefer talking or doing? This question posted on Local Trust’s Facebook page inspired Rachel Smith – a young mother recently involved in Heston West Big Local – to tell us how healthy cooking classes have transformed relationships between local people.

“At Heston West Big Local we have an amazing group of volunteers, workers and supporting organisations each with their own set of skills and abilities. I believe that how much and in what form you participate is a personal thing – it all helps to make the bigger picture.

We offer various classes, and people participate on a regular basis. A favourite that comes to mind is the Healthy Cooking Class. Originally, this was aimed at individual families to support bonding and provide information on healthy meals, while showing people how to prepare food. However, what transpired was amazing.

“I love my cooking. Getting up on a Saturday morning and coming along to see everyone really makes my day.” Terry, 70 yrs.

‘Great things happened before, but this was something truly remarkable’

Each individual family joined in and together we became our Big Local family. Every week we would look forward to our Saturday morning and catch up with everyone. After cooking our healthy meals we would sit together in the next room and enjoy being together, like a family does. We would find out how the week had been, get the next instalment of the dilemma someone else was trying to support with, tell jokes and reminisce.

“The first time I met Terry he showed me how to cook the chicken for our curry. It made me feel so proud when everyone was eating it afterwards. Even Manju said it was one of the best she had ever tasted!” Brooke, 11yrs –

Many great things happened before this but this was the beginning of something truly remarkable. Some people who had never spoken before were showing encouragement and giving advice, while others shared and developed new ideas for projects that would benefit the community.

“We’re all a family and it’s important to me. I’ve lived in Heston for over 50 years. It’s never had a community like it does now.”

‘Much better than a project wanting to make improvements’


Since this beginning, things have gone from strength to strength. I know many would agree that now we are a community that is building something better, rather than a project wanting to make improvements.

We do not just talk nor do we just do… we communicate effectively as a community what our needs and aspirations are. We support and develop ideas and then we act on this. Some may have work commitments or health barriers, but we support each other through difficulties and embrace each other’s strengths. This has come from both talking and doing. Not always the same person, not always the same time but always important.

With just talking there is no change, with just doing there is no structure. It takes partnership to make it work.

‘I was apprehensive but I found my voice’


Last month we held our AGM, so it was a time for reflection. In the short time I have been aware of and supporting our Big Local, I have grown in confidence and ability. It’s enabled and inspired me to push my boundaries, and I can honestly say that in the space of one year I am a better person for this experience already.

I was apprehensive to share my thoughts and ideas, but with the encouragement of so many friendly faces I soon found my voice. What I have received in return for donating a little of my time continues to amaze not only myself but my family and friends. I am a talker but also like to be active in doing, that’s just me.”