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Meet vegan Rastafarian chef and MC Spirit, who runs Ital cooking class at charity Made in Hackney

PUBLISHED: 17:14 13 September 2017 | UPDATED: 17:35 13 September 2017

Lowell Grant, who is known as Spirit. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Lowell Grant, who is known as Spirit. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Emma Bartholomew

Vegan Rastafarian chef and MC Spirit is a familiar face around Hackney thanks to his cooking classes and old shop in Broadway Market. Emma Bartholomew met him the day after his slot at Hackney Carnival

Spirit with a dish of his Ital food at the Made in Hackney HQ. Picture: Tanya HarrisSpirit with a dish of his Ital food at the Made in Hackney HQ. Picture: Tanya Harris

Spirit first came to England from Jamaica in 1964 to join his family who had come here on the Windrush.

“I was a bit more fortunate. I actually flew here,” said the 71-year old Rastafarian MC and Ital chef, whose real name is Lowell Grant.

He picked up his moniker at school when one of his friends started calling him Spirit out of the blue.

“I was a bit upset and we had a stupid fight,” he said.

“When you are young when you talk about ‘spirit’, you think about ghosts or something evil. But what he meant was he kept seeing me in so many different places.”

He worked as a welder in the UK for 20 years until he decided it was affecting his eyesight and lungs, and decided to “set up something more friendly”.

The father-of-nine began selling Caribbean food at carnivals and on the roadside, until he eventually opened his own food shop in Broadway Market, where he became a pillar of the community.

He has been fighting a legal battle against his eviction in 2008 ever since. But Spirit has found solace helping vulnerable young people learn to cook and eat more healthily through the Caribbean-style vegan Ital food courses he runs for the charity Made in Hackney.

“It’s about eating fresh, unpolluted, live food from the garden,” said Spirit. “What we say is it’s vital to your wellbeing.”

The plant-based diet is a key part of Rastafarianism, but Spirit learned vegan cooking from his mother and aunt who were Christians.

“The way I was bought up we only lived off the land. We used to grow our own food,” he remembers.

As a boy he remembers being taken to see his great-grandfather William Wedgwood Grant who was hiding out in the mountains in Jamaica.

The black nationalist who fought for workers’ rights was blamed for insurrection, and there was a death warrant out for him – but has since had a park named in his honour.

A Bob Marley and Burning Spear fan, Spirit was performing as an MC at the Hackney Carnival at the weekend.

“I find music very inspiring,” he said.

“It gives you a reason for living and continuing life.

“I find it helpful to people – it makes people happy.”

Spirit teaches Ital Caribbean food classes at Made in Hackney in Cazenove Road, Stamford Hill.

To secure an introductory price place for £25 instead of £60 tomorrow at 6.30pm email sarah@madeinhackney.org.

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