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The 15th February will see the launch of the Chester Hunger Games and I’d like you all to volunteer as tributes.

Unlike in The Hunger Games book and movie series, this won’t involve battling your fellow tributes to the death, until only one remains standing. Instead, it’s a win-win situation; participating means discovering the independent eateries on your doorstep, drawn in by an offer and, hopefully, landing on your new local.

‘What the hell are you talking about Gemma?’

An opportunity for the people of Chester to show-up and support their indies. An opportunity to demonstrate our love for those small, interesting, community-invested businesses that keep the city vibrant and unique.

I still don’t know what you’re talking about.’

Okay, last year a few owners of independent Chester businesses approached Labour MP Chris Matheson with a conundrum – they just weren’t getting the footfall they needed to survive. Chris engaged GFN – Good For Nothing (a group who ‘bring like-minded folks together for creative collaborations’) who then rallied the troops. I soon found myself amongst a huge group of business owners, freelancers, curious locals and Richard Beacham and Carol Vella from Cheshire West and Chester Council, sitting in Storyhouse looking at the key problems and how we could tackle them.

Long story cut short, one idea emerged as a spin on the Hunger Games (quite literally – it does involve spinning) that ticked all the feasible and inspired boxes. Local branding agency Stride have since taken on the idea and made it a reality. The concept is simple – for two weeks from 15th Feb, residents and tourists alike are invited to visit https://chesterhunger.games/ and spin a wheel which will bosh out an independent food joint and an offer to entice you to check it out.

At the time of writing, twenty-two of our fantastic eateries have signed up (including Chez Joules, Bean & Cole, Urbano32 and The Moorings, to name but a few), and any who still fancy being part of this fun initiative are encouraged to register interest here.

Offers include free drinks with main bills, 10%-50% off the bill, buy one get one half price sandwiches and multi-course discounts. You can use the offers the wheel throws you as many times as you like over the two weeks – so if you fall in love, go to town. You’ll find links to the cafe or restaurant’s location, but we recommend checking opening days and hours with the businesses directly.

The project, which has had funding contributions from the Council, CH1ChesterBID and Marketing Cheshire, aims to illuminate the wealth of foodie options in the city and encourages people to try something different. This is a real avengers assemble moment for us. Beyond a temporary increase in footfall and awareness, the long term benefits (should the project be a success) could include further, creative initiatives to help retain the colour in our city and a new array of loyal customers bolstering our indies.

When an indie closes in Chester, it’s normally accompanied by great outcry, concern over another empty unit and worry over what, if anything, will take its place. But by signing up to ideas like this, we can do our bit to show our appreciation and invest in what we believe in – and best of all, you’ll likely get some delicious food for a bargain from the effort.

Chester Hunger Games is thanks to the support and efforts of the Chester big guns: Cheshire West and Chester Council, CH1ChesterBID, Marketing Cheshire, Good for Nothing and Stride. We’ll also be taking part by shedding some light on the businesses involved throughout the two weeks; their stories, plans, and what you can expect.

Currently, all signed-up businesses fall within the city centre CH1 district, but organisers want to encourage those in Hoole, Handbridge etc. to get involved. This is just the simple beginning of what could develop into a larger movement.

If the work of GFN has piqued your interest and you want to get stuck into making cool things happen in Chester, check them out here – their next social gathering is Thursday 7th Feb, from 6:30pm at Commonhall Social.

Sign up online to be prompted about the kick off and follow on Twitter and Instagram.

So how about it Chester – let’s get behind our indies and make this the first of many initiatives that illuminate and champion them.