Dinner with a difference

An introduction from Maddy: the following might seem anomalous on this blog, focused as it is on the New Theatre in Your Neighbourhood project. But I asked Humira Imtiaz, the writer I met at a workshop last October, to blog about Leo Burtin’s visit to Stockton with Homemade for two reasons: partly to keep encouraging Humira to write, mostly because I think what ARC is doing to transform itself into a community hub welcoming to everyone, even those who think “contemporary performance” isn’t for them, is inspirational and that goes far beyond their work with Fuel. This has been sitting in my inbox for a while, but Leo is taking Homemade to Bristol at the end of the month so do catch him there if you can.

Homemade: Bistro at the ARC
by Humira Imtiaz

Hosted by Leo Burtin, the pop-up Bistro offered a variety of delicious food – and an interesting alternative to ARC’s “Pay What You Decide” scheme. Rather than using money as a form of exchange, we used recipes, ones that have a special, subjective meaning to the consumer. It may not sound much, but this project does challenge the idea of monetary exchange as the only valuable exchange between people. It recognises that there are more important things in life, whether it’s sharing a family recipe of pakoras that your grandmother used to make or food that you’ve prepared yourself.

As you may have guessed, the pakoras were my exchange – though my anxiety made me throw in a little recipe for green chilli chutney as well, because you can’t have pakoras without that! I’m not exactly the most social person around, and when it comes to strangers my first instinct is usually to run. But the food and the familiarity of the personal memories linked to that – which can be emotional, ranging from “family favourites” to “something simple to impress the lay-dies” – encouraged conversation. The showcasing of alternative foods and encouragement of conversation between people of different backgrounds is another admirable side to this vision.

The recipe exchanges were written on little postcards and speaking with Leo about this work was quite enlightening. I think I’m going to miss this Bistro: it would be nice to see something like this more often and maybe it doesn’t have to end with food.

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