As a fleet of cars pull up, and a delicious waft of home-cooked Indian food fills Pigeon Square, the people who have been gathering for the past half-hour form an orderly queue.
It’s a ritual that has been repeated on the first Sunday of every month for just over a year, as volunteers from the Queen’s Park Gurdwara set up tables filled with steaming pots of curry and mountains of roti to serve food to people in Bedford.
The Curry Kitchen project was set up last summer to feed anyone in town who needs a good meal, perhaps through having limited resources, or being homeless.
Sunday’s kitchen was last one before Christmas and the volunteers added beautiful, home-made cupcakes to the menu.
Volunteer Jaswinder Jandu, who lives in Oakley, said it is part of the Sikh faith to serve people. She said: “In this case, we serve food to those who need it, and there is a demand for this in Bedford.
“Everyone gets involved, from children to pensioners, and it is not just Sikhs. We have volunteers from other faiths, and no faiths, who come to the Gurdwara.”
The Curry Kitchen routine begins at about 3pm at the Gurdwara, when volunteers hit the kitchens to begin preparing and cooking the food, which is all vegetarian.
Everything is freshly made from scratch, even the breads. Other items are donated from home, such as the cupcakes, and there is a constant stream of goods coming in.
Jaswinder said: “There is so much food donated to the Gurdwara. People bring food to the temple as a matter of course.”
Volunteer Gurdeep Sanghera added: “The Curry Kitchen is not just for the homeless, everyone is welcome. Sometimes people who work late and are on their way home will drop by.
“People are welcome to take any left overs home, or take portions for their friends who couldn’t make it.”
Matt, 36, has been coming to the kitchen since it started. He is living in a hostel as he works hard to get his life back on track, and looks forward to his monthly curry
He said: “It is really tasty. In the summer, it might be curried pasta. Tonight we have a few portions of different types of sauce, and there is enough for me to have for lunch tomorrow.
“There are a few groups in Bedford which provide meals - the Salvation Army do, and a group give out soup-and-sandwiches during the week, but this is a special night. It is something to look forward to.
“The Gurdwara people are so generous. When you are struggling, its a godsend.”
Volunteer Ravi Gill said the project is well supported from the wider community, not just be those who attend the temple.
This was perfectly illustrated when a gentleman arrived to give the volunteers a cash donation and swiftly disappeared back into the night as the queue was being served.
Ravi said: “The feedback from our regulars is also good. They appreciate the food and respect the volunteers by not smoking or drinking in the queue.”
Armed with black sacks, the volunteers clear up all the rubbish. “We even remove used trays and wrappers from the town’s bins so the kitchen leaves nothing behind for the borough to have to clear up,” Ravi added.
The volunteers spend about an hour in the square and as they began packing up, another of their clients, who gave his name as MadAndi, said he appreciates getting a “great big feed” once a month.
But he did express his anger over the situation homeless people find themselves in, claiming the council could be doing more to help people.
He said: “They should open up the empty buildings across Bedford and let people live there. The council have a go at people squatting, but they are frozen and hungry. Something needs to be done at a higher level so you don’t need free kitchens.”
But as people began to drift off into the night, and the last wrappers were put in the black sack, MadAndi stopped the volunteers to say thank you.
He said: “I appreciate this more than you realise. You’ve even inspired me to help make it better.”
The Curry Kitchen is run as part of the Bedford Langar Project. For more information, go to www.facebook.com/BedfordLangarProject