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Celebrity chefs help cook up support for Soho primary

For most primary schools, the idea of a fundraiser conjures up images of a fete with a home-made cake stall and some wilting sandwiches.

But for Soho Parish Primary in central London, the culinary delights on offer will rival any food festival, with a roster of Michelin-starred chefs donating their time and food for free in a bid to raise thousands of pounds.

Fergus Henderson, owner of the internationally renowned St John restaurant in London's Clerkenwell, is leading a who's who of chefs taking part in the Soho Food Feast, solely in aid of the school where his children used to be pupils.

Other restaurants participating in tomorrow's event include The Ivy, Arbutus, Bocca di Lupo and Hix.

The school's ability to attract celebrity support for its cause is well established. When an art auction was suggested a few years ago, Mr Henderson asked some of his regular customers to donate pieces.

It just so happened that his customers included Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin; the resulting auction raised more than #163;150,000.

The Soho Food Feast is the brainchild of Margot Henderson, wife of Fergus and also a highly successful chef who runs the Rochelle Canteen in east London.

"People should be writing about and praising teachers, instead of chefs," Mrs Henderson told The TES.

"The teachers there work so hard and the chefs have been really excited about lending their support. The school is a place that I hold dear to my heart. It is an oasis in the middle of a crazy, bustling area and offers support to a wide mix of people in the community."

As well as the food, there will be demonstrations, wine tasting, and that staple of school fundraisers, a raffle - although this one offers prizes including X-Factor tickets, accommodation at top hotels and vintage wines.

Rachel Earnshaw, the school's headteacher, said the Church of England school was in desperate need of the funds that the festival would raise.

"This year has been particularly difficult for us financially, as it has been for many people working in the public sector," she said. "We have had to lay off five teaching assistants.

"Other costs are also spiralling and we're desperate to keep after-school activities going because a lot of the children who live in this area don't have other places where they can play."

Ms Earnshaw said she was happy to make the most of her school's celebrity connections. "It's one of our assets, and the way people have supported the school is fantastic," she said.

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