Heritage of Public Diners

At Nourish, our new project looks at the heritage of communal dining in Scotland, including the ‘British restaurants’ government initiative of the 1940s and contemporary examples such as the Langar. Our learning will help us develop a Public Dining concept that will feed and support local communities today. 

British Restaurants were created to provide a healthy, and affordable meal (9p equivalent to £1.50 today) and were open to everyone in society. By 1943 there was more than 2,000 restaurants serving 500,000 meals a day. Restaurants were set up by local councils in a variety of spaces from town halls to local churches, they also featured artwork to make the space engaging and joyful- far from a soup kitchen but a proud place for community.  

Ourselves and our fantastic volunteers are researching these Restaurants on an array on themes such as looking at geographical locations of where restaurants where, what purpose they had to local communities and their reactions to them, Government plans, the art and design history of restaurants and the menu and food distribution. We are visiting local libraries, archives and museums to develop our understanding on these restaurants. 

Volunteers will also be interviewing individuals on their firsthand experience of British Restaurants during and after World War Two.  We hope this enriches the project by including local voices and stories to define the impact British restaurants had during and after the war. 

We are also interested in contemporary examples of communal dining. We will look at existing community meals, and institutions such as Langar and how they shape our experience of eating together. We are interested in the traditions, knowledge and experiences the News Scots bring with them, for instance Polish ‘milk bars’ and Singaporean hawker. 

All this research will conclude with the creation of a touring exhibition. The purpose of the exhibition is to firstly showcase this forgotten history and the impact it had on society but secondly to act as evidence and inspiration to local communities, authorities, and government that a reinvented Public Diner is something that would work and that is needed to feed and support people in Scotland today.  

Photos from our recent Community Researcher events:

We are excited to see where this project will go and the change it could make!

If you would like to get involved, please visit our current vaccines page with a link to our volunteer application. Alternatively, please email our project research coordinator, Jade Balmer for more information at jade@nourishscotland.org.uk

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Research Wish List

Below is our research ‘wish list’. It details the key information we are keen on finding in our research. If you are interested in assisting in the project or have anything that can contribute from the list then please get in contact.

British Restaurant Map

Through local newspaper archives, we are in the process of mapping the locations of British Restaurants in Scotland. Below is an example of the 57 locations we have already found.