Why Detroit and Worcester have more in common than you might think.
Metro Detroit. The Motor City. Home to 4.3 million people. Birthplace of Diana Ross and the assembly line.
Worcester. The Faithful City. Home to 100 thousand people. Birthplace of Edward Elgar (well Broadheath village. Close enough!) and Worcestershire Sauce.
What do Detroit and Worcester have in common?
Inspired by the BBC article “Can soup change the world?” in May 2015, I decided to start Worcester Soup. Worcester Soup is a quarterly micro-granting dinner celebrating and supporting creative projects in Worcester. The event follows a simple format refined by Amy Kaherl and her friends in Detroit, Michigan, over the past 6 years. That weekend in May last year I set up a website, twitter and facebook account and set off on a journey to discover more about my city and community.
At that time I also started to read up on Worcester’s industrial history. If like me your knowledge of Worcester history is somewhat sketchy, here is a little recap:
In the 18th century the wool cloth trade, that Worcester had relied on, was on the decline. By the end of the century it was dead.
1751, Dr John Wall, a physician, and William Davis, an apothecary, developed a unique method for producing porcelain and persuaded a group of 13 businessmen to invest in a new factory at Warmstry House, Worcester, on the banks of the River Severn.
1777, John Dent built the first glove factory on South Quay on the River. His company was the first to industrialise the process of preparing leather and cutting the designs.
1778, Dr Wall’s porcelain works became the Royal Worcester Porcelain Works producing some of the finest porcelain in the world.
1820, there were 150 manufacturers of leather gloves in Worcester and 30-40,000 people were estimated to be employed in the industry in Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
1832, The British Medical Association (BMA) was founded in Castle Street.
1837, Lea & Perrins began bottling their special blend of vinegars and seasonings. Worcestershire Sauce. Without any kind of advertising, in just a few short years, it was known and coveted in kitchens across Europe.
1882 Worcester hosted the Worcestershire Exhibition. 222,807 people attended!
Fast forward to 1962. Cecil Duckworth founded Worcester Engineering Co. Ltd. opened their first business premises at the Old Vinegar Works in St. Martins Gate. After changing its name to Worcester Heat Systems Ltd, in 1992 the company was acquired by Bosch. Worcester’s early success is attributed to the pioneering of combination boilers in the UK.
I could go on. World’s oldest newspaper. Founder of the first advertising agency in the UK born here. A string of famous artists and scientists born and worked in the city.
So what do Detroit and Worcester have in common? An amazing history of innovation and industry. But above all. Creative, caring, entrepreneurial, skilful, ambitious people who want their city to thrive for the benefit of everyone in it. A growing confidence to reinvent from inside. A pioneering spirit that looks beyond its city walls to the opportunity to connect with others across the world.
I’ve lived in Worcester for 20 years. I chose to live here. I met my wife here. My kids were born here. It’s a beautiful place to be. It has so much potential in its people to reignite its creative and confident spirit. World leading ideas are here to be uncovered, encouraged and be shared, just like they have been in the past.
last September we kicked off Worcester Soup. That first Worcester event was very special. Amy (pictured above with Chloe Wilde from Worcester Soup) from Detroit joined us! What better way to start our Soup adventure. It blows my mind to think 12 months ago there were 3 or 4 Soups in the UK and there are now over 60. In July we all getting together again with Amy, in Birmingham, to celebrate the development of Soup UK, to share ideas and encourage each other.
Whether your interest is in business, charity, the environment, health, sport, art or education, working together to make Worcester an even better city, for everyone, has to be the way forward.
Last week Hamish from The Kiln got in contact with me. The adventure continues…
Life among the ruins
Meet Amy Kaherl, Founder, Detroit Soup
Ponyride. Our story.
Can soup change the world? Part 1 DetroitCan soup change the world? Part 2 Nepal
The first ever Birmingham Soup