The Food Events took a sideways look at food. We created jewellery, cushions, ornaments, playthings, and poetry either made from food or inspired by food . We served food up in the form of a farmyard (the picture on the left is the farm house) and we allowed young people to eat their own words.
This was our 1976 Summer tour and the work took place on 2 adventure play grounds (Speke and Stonedale) and in one summer play scheme at Rice Lane.
As with all our work in other venues we started by visiting possible sites and talking to the staff. We expected them to be involved in the events so that it became a two way learning process. It also meant that we could base the work on the equipment and facilities available. Having decided on the venues we then sat down and considered what we could do.
From our early days cooking has been part of most Blackie playschemes - however it was clear that we would not be able to cook at either Speke or Stonedale whereas we would at Rice Lane. We therefore planned workshops for Speke and Stonedale that included making necklaces from beans, brooches from bread, cushions in the shape of fruit, Perspex brooches and pendants, latex oranges and apples that would bounce, and varnished bread ornaments. For Rice Lane we decided we would write and cook poems.
Finally we wanted to end each visit with a celebration - a Farm House Tea at Speke and a Poetry Picnic at Rice Lane, sadly we did not manage such a celebration at Stonedale.
Speke Adventure Play Ground
In 1976 we had a summer work camp which included people from Spain, where apparently making bread into brooches is a traditional activity! So we set up the first two works shops one making bread into brooches and the other beans into necklaces.
Traditionally the soft inner part of a newly baked loaf is kneaded into small petals which are used to build up a rose. We did to make brooches, but we also moulded the bread into balls, squares etc. which were used to make bracelets, and rings. Once shaped the bread can be painted and dried or alternatively you can dye the bread before moulding it and mix the breads so as to produced a marbled effect.
We ran this workshop for 8 days and worked with 151 children.
The beans need to be soaked over night in luke warm and possibly dyed water. You can then easily, with a large-eyed needle, thread the beans onto fishing line make necklaces. Once threaded you hang them to dry for about 12 hours in a steady medium temperature.
We ran this workshop for 4 days and worked with 50 young people.
From workshop we moved onto making Perspex brooches and pendants and putting fruit, vegetables and sweets into resin.
We made both pendants and brooches by sawing out a base shape such as a square, circle or rectangle. People then chose a fruit or vegetable and cut it out in Perspex. This ranged from oranges, apples or pears to red peppers. The fruit/vegetable shapes were then glued onto the base shapes. A pin was added to turn it into a brooch, or a hole drilled and threaded with a leather thong to turn it into a pendant.
It takes a lot of rubbing down to perfect the shapes but we have always found that working with Perspex attracts the older lads and they are prepared to put in the effort.
There is a lack of photos of this workshop but hopefully the pic on the right, which shows a red pepper on a rectangular base, gives some idea of the kind of objects we produced.
The Perspex workshop ran for 8 days and involved 41 young people
This consisted of capturing food within resin. This was done by pouring a base layer into a container, we used fondant and cake moulds as containers, so the final object would be quite thin, and letting it partially set. Then whatever was going to be inserted was placed on the base layer and covered with resin.
Using fruit and vegetables was not very successful, indeed the spring onions caused the resin to heat up and erupt in a volcanic fashion over the top of the container. The sweets were somewhat better but the sugar in them, in some cases, reacted with the resin causing it to crack, however Smarties and Liquorice Allsorts worked well. We also inserted beans and lentils which, being somewhat inert, caused no problems.
Yet again we do not have much in the way of photos of the works created but left is a young man viewing his resin pendant.
We ran the resin workshops for 3 days and worked with 30 youngsters.
Left bean necklaces being hung up.
Once the Exhibition was up we then set about preparing The Farm House Tea which was due to be served at 3pm on the Saturday.
We sent invites to the kids which said "Now that you have made food with us we invite you to eat with us."
In the evening 8 kids and 4 adults went to Huskisson Street (our staff house) to prepare the food for the next day. We started with an ordinary sponge mixture which we dyed green and then cut into strips to become hedges. We made sandwiches which we cut into the shape of pigs. We made cows from sausages and cocktail sticks, ducks and rabbits from ginger biscuits and shortbread, a pond from jelly dyed blue, chickens from hardboiled eggs cut in half with cocktail onions as their heads. The potato field was made up of baked potatoes, Madeira cake became haystacks, a mushroom patch was made from hard boiled eggs and sausages set in green bread. Finally a farm house made out of cake and chocolate fingers.
On the Saturday we set up the farmyard in the community centre, which took longer than expected. But, not long after the set time, the kids filed in and then just stood and stared. It took sometime before anyone actually started eating! Below are picture of the Farm Yard Tea.
We worked at Speke for 8 days - 11am to 4 pm with no break. There were 6 of us from the Blackie, plus Vi Caffery, who ran Speke Adventure Playground, plus a couple of local helpers.
We worked with 145 young people.
Stonedale Adventure Playground (Croxteth)
We arrived at Stonedale to find charred stumps, which were the remains of the out door play structures, and the two playleaders confined to a hut. The Playground had been burnt down and a group of young lads had taken the place over. Young kids were no longer coming to the playscheme and neither were their parents.
After a discussion on the situation with the playleaders we decided to press ahead with the works shops. So we sent them out to rustle up some children. Meanwhile we found a saucepan (no kettle) and set out to make tea. By the time the water boiled someone had thoughtfully added washing up liquid to it. It was at that point that we decided to institute a bit of discipline. The lads were removed from the hut and we set up the workshops.
Although the workshops went well on the first day we were bombarded by the lads trying to work or force their way back in. We decided day two to take Judy Gough with to staff the door to the hut and to keep the lads out. We also added a couple of extra people to the staff. By the middle of the week the leader of the 'barred' youngsters was running a clay sculpture workshop, working with tools we had bought him, and the young kids and their parents had returned.
On day one we made cushions in the shape of fruit. Using a pre-made card pattern the young people, with a crayon or pencil, draw the shape of the fruit twice, on yellow (for bananas), green (for apples) or orange (for oranges) material, and cut them out using shears. Then they pinned the two fruit shaped pieces together and sewed them up using an electric sewing machine. (NB unless you have a geared machine using a hand one would be easier).
When sewn together we stuffed the 'fruits' with felt circles, then cut leaves out of felt for the apples, stripes for the bananas, and the letters of 'JAFFA' for the orange. These were sewn on the cushions by hand.
The workshop ran for 5 days and involved 13 young people.
Working with two to three young people at a time, we made plaster moulds of apples and oranges. These were then set aside to dry. Then, on day 3, we filled the moulds with coloured Latex. Once this had set we broke the moulds open to reveal the fruit. Being made of Latex they bounced.
The workshops ran for 4 days - one day making moulds and 3 days pouring latex. It involved 17 young people.
The young people started by drawing on card the outline of something they liked - so butterflies, flowers, animals, cartoon characters, etc. Then using a range of dried foods - primarily beans and pasta - the young people filled in the the outline.
The trickiest part of the process was sticking the dried food down so that it stayed stuck without creating a mess in the process. We used something called Marvin Medium although, (if it was not so dangerous) superglue would have been ideal.
The workshop ran for 2 days and involved 37 youngsters.
Also on day 1 we started a Perspex workshop using the same techniques as in Speke which we ran for 2 days and involved 7 young people.
On day 2 we spent the day making fudge which people could take home with them. We also started a Bread Jewellery workshop using the experience we had gained in Speke. This ran for 2 days and involved 15 young people.
We cut out the shape of a fruit or vegetable in stiff card, then cut out two pieces of felt slightly larger tha the card. The felt was then sewn together with the card inside and a brooch pin added on the back. We ran this for one day whilst finishing off some of the work started earlier.
Onions. Spaghetti and Me
On the final day we ran a Fluxus Clinic. This is a variation of a standard medical test, but one which tests a person in imaginative ways. It was pioneered in New York by the Fluxus Group of artists led by High Red Center.
First we created a booklet with an opening page in which the young people listed their details. Each page following this had a proposition which the young people were invited to complete. They included: "My breath is strong enough to blow an onion.... inches"; a memory test involving 7 items; measuring how high people could jump in terms of slices of bread; and so on.
Fluxus Clinics are always, in our experience, very enjoyable and this one was no exception, 32 young people took part and it served as a fitting end to what had begun as a difficult week.
During the week we worked with 55 young people over the 6 days. Sadly we have no photographs of our time at Stonedale.
The Rice Lane Summer Playscheme
For our week at Rice Lane we were joined by Windows (a poetry making organisation); at that time consisting of the poets Dave Calder and Dave Ward. Therefore we concentrated on transforming food into words.
Young people wrote poems and then transformed the poems into food. So young people were literally eating their own words.
Creating the Poems
The young people started by playing a fairground game in which they bounced a ball up a ramp, behind the ramp was a box divided into smaller boxes each with a letter of the alphabet printed in it. Where the ball landed determined the first letter of a word. They did this four or five times, each time gaining a letter and hence a new word.
Playing the game to get a letter
They strung the words together to make the first line of a poem. The second line they made up themselves. When they had completed this they stencilled the poem onto coloured paper or boards.
Once the poem had been completed and stencilled, the writers could choose to make an edible version of the poem.
young people stencilling their poems and examples of stencilled poems
Creating Icing Sugar Poems
We started with a choice of icing sugar or toffee. The icing sugar was comparatively easy to use. It was mixed with water, and dyed red, blue or green. The poem was written using an icing set with a forcing bag.
Left picture of a young girl using an icing set to write her poem.
42 young people made icing sugar poems of which there are two examples below.
Creating Toffee Poems
The toffee was more difficult. Depending on the thickness and temperature of the toffee people either used a spoon shaped with a lip and poured it to make the letters; or waited until the toffee was cool enough to handle and then rolled it into sausage shapes and then made these into letters.
Left youngster works with cooled toffee
29 young people made toffee poems.
Cooking The Poems
On the fifth day we made cheese pastry (as one would for cheese straws) which we rolled into sausage shapes and then made these into letters to recreate the poem. And somewhat less successfully did the same with shortbread pastry.
Above young people making their poems with cheese pastry and taking the cooked version out of the oven.
7 young people took part in cooking the poems.
Communal Poem and Picnic.
The young people who had taken part in the workshops came in on the Saturday and created a poem. Starting with the ball game they wrote the first lines of two poems and the kids who came in later simply added their own lines. Below is one of the poems used:-
Elephants keep useless acorns
Guarded by hedgehogs and fleas
Cooked by monkeys in a palm pan
Elephants never forget the trees
Crocodiles eat chicken curry
Going into outer space
Pulling on a heavy case
Following a big mistake
Falling back into the lake
Once the poems were complete we cooked rice, coloured various shades of green, and sausages and we made salads. We then went to Woolton Park for the picnic.
We laid a cloth out in the shape of a large square and on top of this laid melinmex foil. On the foil, using the rice, sausages and salad, we laid out the letters of the poems
Above pictures of people laying out the base of the picnic and the poems.
Laying out the picnic took some time, fortunately we had been joined by three volunteers from Africa (who had on their arrival taken the names Doc, Right Thinking and Whiskey). Without being asked they set up games and story telling with the young people; keeping them occupied until the picnic was ready.
Above Right Thinking leading games and left Doc and Whiskey leading story telling.
Below are pictures of people enjoying the picnic.
Overall 70 young people took part in the workshops at Rice Lane and about 80 kids and adults came to the picnic.
We do not have a complete list of everyone who worked on the Food Events so the credits below are put together from memory and by deciphering the photographs. So if anyone knows they were there, or knows anyone else who was there, then please let us know.
The Food Events were devised by Wendy Harpe and were staffed by Wendy, with Jan Connell, Judy Gough, Elisabeth, our Spanish workcampers (Rosa, Javier, Lisardo, and Celia), Right Thinking, Doc, and Whiskey. Vi Caffrey worked with us at Speke and we were joined at Rice Lane by Windows (Dave Calder and Dave Ward).