I first came across the Pan Intercultural Arts (http://www.pan-arts.net/) Fortune group and the ‘Taste of Memory’ project in June 2011. Fortune is a refugee arts programme for young adults that is run by Pan Intercultural Arts.
I was working on a project for Refugee Week 2011 called ‘Refugee Week Radio’. Refugee Week Radio is an annual online audio service that highlights and celebrates the lives of, and the contributions made by refugees in the UK. I chose to make a feature about the Taste of Memory project as I wanted to share the story of how a group of young, London-based refugees were honing their artistic, performance skills while exploring the complex world of food. I contacted the group’s Artistic Director, John Martin and asked whether it would be possible to come to meet and interview the group, and the rest is history….
The first time I visited the group, I was welcomed with open arms by the group and its facilitators. John suggested that since I was going to interview the group, they should have the opportunity to interview me first. This was a great idea as it really broke the ice. I was asked all kinds of food-related questions ranging from basic ones such as, ‘What is my favourite food?’, to more imaginative ones such as, ‘If I was a food what would I be?’. I think the group were fascinated by my ethnic and cultural roots, as well as my vegetarianism and approach to food.
After these initial introductions, I observed rehearsals taking place and ideas being formulated for the forthcoming final performance that was due to take place in September as a climax at the culmination of the ‘Taste of Memory’ project. It was heart-warming and touching to witness these young adults express themselves eloquently while rehearsing and recounting food-related stories from their pasts – I felt privileged to see their tastes of memory. One of the most memorable and moving moments was when I asked one of the participants what food meant to him. His response gave me food for thought: ‘Food means a lot to me because I have struggled a lot for food. So, it means everything….’.
Here is the audio package featuring an interview with John Martin, together with 2 participants, Amir and Ali.
Fast forwarding a couple of months to September 2011…. I was invited to come to watch a performance given by the group at Chat’s Palace in Homerton. The performance was vibrant, polished, confident, sincere, interactive, original, engaging, thought-provoking, emotional and full of panache – I loved it. The participants collectively told and performed the story of intercultural and multicultural food in the UK in 2011. Personal stories of cultural food traditions were acted and narrated, and food from a variety of countries and cultures was shared with the audience. It truly was a memorable day.