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The Sunday Club: Meet the Ipswich men swapping their pub visits for a virtual cook-off

PUBLISHED: 12:26 28 June 2020 | UPDATED: 12:27 28 June 2020

Friends Marc Emmanuel, Gary Smallman and Steve Driver, who set up the Sunday Club group after their weekly pub visits were stopped as a result of coronavirus. Picture: ELLEN EMMANUEL

Friends Marc Emmanuel, Gary Smallman and Steve Driver, who set up the Sunday Club group after their weekly pub visits were stopped as a result of coronavirus. Picture: ELLEN EMMANUEL

Picture: ELLEN EMMANUEL

A group of friends who usually meet for a pint every week in Ipswich have been teaching themselves a new skill during the lockdown by hosting a virtual cooking club from their kitchens.

Some of the foods prepared by the Sunday Club in Ipswich. Picture: MARC EMMANUELSome of the foods prepared by the Sunday Club in Ipswich. Picture: MARC EMMANUEL

The group – known as Sunday Club – was created by three friends in Ipswich when the lockdown meant they were no longer able to meet at the Man on the Moon pub.

Before restrictions were introduced, Marc Emmanuel, an English teacher at Westbourne Academy, Steve Driver, owner of Fircroft Laundry and Gary Smallman, deputy director of probation services for East Anglia, would all meet for a pint at 12pm on Sundays, while their other half would usually prepare the dinner.

Now the tables have turned and the men have been spending their Sundays cooking a range of different cuisines – learning a new skill and keeping connected with their friends at the same time.

Each week, a different member of the group gets the ingredients and hosts the session in Ipswich. Picture: MARC EMMANUELEach week, a different member of the group gets the ingredients and hosts the session in Ipswich. Picture: MARC EMMANUEL

“We were lost and had nothing to do,” explained Marc, who said the group were gutted to hear their local pub was closing due to Covid-19.

“We organised a house party video together at first and it started off as something very silly, but now it has really grown.”

The group of three quickly became a group of seven.

Che Chesterman from the X Factor even joined the Sunday Club on Father's Day Sunday, singing to the Ipswich group. Picture: MARC EMMANUELChe Chesterman from the X Factor even joined the Sunday Club on Father's Day Sunday, singing to the Ipswich group. Picture: MARC EMMANUEL

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They are regularly joined by Peter Keen, an architect, Seekah Lytes, a local rap artist who performs at Latitude, Russell Smith, a carpet fitter and Chris Sutton, who is retired and the eldest in the group at 74.

Every Sunday morning Marc will deliver the ingredients to everyone involved, enabling them to all prepare the same main course and a dessert.

The group of Ipswich friends are bringing out a book called 'Sunday Club' which will show the foods they created during lockdown. Picture: MARC EMMANUELThe group of Ipswich friends are bringing out a book called 'Sunday Club' which will show the foods they created during lockdown. Picture: MARC EMMANUEL

The group of friends – who have known each other for 19 years – all cook together using Zoom, whipping up different cuisines such as goulash, key lime pie, curries, meatloaf, toad in the hole, lasagne, apple crumble, seafood pies, and more.

To celebrate Father’s Day Ché Chesterman from Basildon, who finished third on the X Factor in 2015, joined the group and sang Dance With My Father for the group.

Marc said: “It was incredible and it reduced us all to tears, especially as many of us have lost our fathers.”

Some of the meals prepared by The Sunday Club group of friends in Ipswich during the lockdown. Picture: MARC EMMANUELSome of the meals prepared by The Sunday Club group of friends in Ipswich during the lockdown. Picture: MARC EMMANUEL

“The whole lunch club started off as something silly, but it has given us a bit of purpose and helps us communicate with our friends during these strange times.”

The men have all learnt to cook from the experience, with Marc explaining they were all previously the “traditional male” and rarely cooked for the family.

“Our wives love our cooking,” explained the teacher. “We have learnt to make some amazing meals and now even our wives have started their own club!”

The Ipswich men have all learnt a new skill during the lockdown, by swapping their afternoons at the pub to cook in their kitchens. Picture: MARC EMMANUELThe Ipswich men have all learnt a new skill during the lockdown, by swapping their afternoons at the pub to cook in their kitchens. Picture: MARC EMMANUEL

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