Day two at A Fair Land began in earnest. The courtyard has yet to fully transform due to technicalities but it’s a definite work-in-progress.
But first, let me talk a bit about the project’s creators: Grizedale Arts.
Based on the historic site of Lawson Park farm in the Lake District in the UK, their site still runs as a productive farm house, with a multifaceted programme of events, projects, residencies and community activity taking place there.
With an aim to develop contemporary art in new directions (especially with an emphasis on food, value for art and resourcefulness), they are trying to work beyond the Romantic and Individualist frameworks that have dominated art history.
What I loved hearing about was how they really wanted to involve the local community in their projects, something that I find some artists do not do or simply don’t think about.
For Grizedale Arts, it’s about bringing projects to a wider audience, concentrating on the process itself rather than the finished product. This to me is a brilliant approach to contemporary art.
The arts organisation worked with three main groups to make A Fair Land happen. The first group is from the Creative Villages of Leytron in Switzerland, that worked on the straw bale Glut Garden. Second, was Coniston that worked on the house building and signage and finally, Sweetwater Foundation from Chicago, a project that is building a new system for a new way of living.
So what was going on today? Well, it was all about serving up and creating food. Kitted out in rather fetching aprons we put together nibbles for mobile vendors who would be selling delightful crackers with courgette pickle and carrot drip.
But why grow courgettes? Why choose them over other vegetables? As proven by their innovations for this particular project: they’re so versatile.
Three core questions lie at the heart of the project: is it useful? Is it desirable? Is it achievable? They also needed to show that this was a product that people could easily use with simple resources.
What Grizedale Arts needed was a food that would easily create a glut so that they had mountains to work with. The fact that they’re continuing to grow in bales of straw is further proof at how manageable they are to grow and maintain as a vegetable.
With all this in mind, I happily continued work as part of the A Fair Land Food School team, prepping dishes for the public who were coming in for lunch.
Lunch is a three-course affair on communal tables to spark conversation between diners. Food is served at 1pm and there are 20 minutes between courses so whether you’re finished or not, after 20 minutes the food is going to go!
Diners use the same bowl for each course, spoons are made of clay or you can use chopsticks if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
Booked online, people arrive at IMMA, head to reception and get a cushion for their seat – this is the official ticket for the lunch and people without a cushion will be politely asked to leave or if they simply forgot to collect it, they may do so then.
Also in the courtyard where the meal’s taking place are the mobile vendors and craft makers that the public could partake in. It’s very much a DIY day out.
Brenda, Francesca and Niamh of the A Fair Land kitchen team brought us through the recipes during the day and were very patient with us.
Even though I wasn’t doing any major cooking and more prep, it still brought back my fond memories of Ballymaloe [link]. I have such a love for food and seeing the courgettes growing reminds me both of the three-month course and my home in Kerry with our very own fruit and veg in the garden.
Day three is tomorrow. Will I tire of courgettes? Who knows? But I know that they’re on the dinner table tonight!
For those interested in A Fair Land, you can find out more on the IMMA website here.
I was invited to be a guest at the Food School. This is a sponsored post.