Observations: A feast of food, art and storytelling in East London
Friday 02 April 2010
Armed with a map and a brown paper bag of broken savoury biscuits, I, along with a group of other intrepid Londoners, set off to bring the city's past to life through food and art this week. This was Broken Biscuits, a brilliantly devised cultural/gastronomic tour in and around the streets of East London, curated by Isabel de Vasconcellos and the artist and concept chef Caroline Hobkinson for the charity Art against Knives.
The event took guests on an exploration of the history of London's most notorious slum, the Old Nichol Street Rookery. In the 1880s, the Old Nichol (which is now Arnold Circus) was a byword for squalor and crime, becoming a test case for Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx's theories of class struggle before it was demolished to create the Boundary Estate, the world's first social housing scheme.
So, off we went with our provisions (shops used to sell broken biscuits to children for a halfpenny) to find some art. A black-and-white projection of a boy on a wall showed a snapshot of daily life. There was also a sound installation from an escape route under The Boundary hotel by Nynke Gabeler, a film of a fried egg sizzling in a pan high up in a window on a street corner by Emilia Izquierdo, and Martin Sexton's Karl Marx ice sculpture at the heart of the Boundary Estate.
At our final destination, a feast at Rochelle Canteen, each course, from the watercress soup to the venison stew – chosen because the Duke of Bedford used to send two free deer to the Old Nichol mission each week – continued the area's tale. "I'm excited by the overlap between food and art and telling stories through food. It's not meant to be a chronological history lesson, but a cryptic experience," explained Hobkinson.
Caroline Hobkinson's next event is Blitzspirit (Stirringwithknives.com) 21-24 April
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