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Festivals beyond the plate: Conversation on food in the arts - 3 December, 2021

British Council's Festival Connections

Online Discussion

3 December, 2021 | 5:30 pm - 6:30 pm IST | Digital Event

This event was a part of British Council's ongoing Festival Connections series, which has focused on building a platform for discussion, engagement, knowledge sharing, and peer learning for the Indian cultural festivals sector since August 2019; in partnership with Arts and Culture Resources India (ACRI) and Art X Company.


Consumption of food must be the most natural survival instinct for humans. Questions around food like consumption, security, sustainability, etc have been widely debated in these past years. This session of Festival Connection — ‘Festivals beyond the plate: Conversations on food in the arts’ confronted difficult dialogues around food in general and in the festival and art spaces.

The diverse panel included — Aruna Ganesh Ram, artistic director of Visual Respiration, Prahlad Sukhtankar, founder and managing partner at Black Sheep Bistro, Sidharth Sharma, creative director of Shambala Festival and director of Bristol Food Network, and Virkein Dhar, founder of Poppy Seed lab and Sundooq. The session was moderated by Elizabeth Yorke, co-founder of Edible Issues and programmer of Food Lab 2021.

The session opened with Elizabeth informing the audience of the Food Lab Art Residency by Serendipity Arts Foundation and the work undertaken by its residents. She spoke about the importance of exploration and research of difficult topics like famine, hunger, etc to bring these narratives to the forefront to create change and awareness. Virkein, while talking about various initiatives she has been a part of, explored the topics of intersection of food and areas of studies, like literature, history, design, policy, and performance. She emphasised on thinking of food as an extension of festival spaces rather than just logistical operation, and embedding in this the ethos, values and heritage of the community and food served to stir up conversation. Next, Prahlad spoke about art and agriculture and using it as inspiration for initiating and encouraging dialogues addressing sustainable agriculture practices, reviving ancient and indigenous crops, and the importance of local food and liquor, like mahua in Goa. He put a spotlight on how to inculcate these practices in the production and curation of culinary art initiatives in festival spaces. Aruna gave the audience an insight into the intersection of food and performance. She introduced her various projects like Stand in the Street, and Memory Recipe, all of which use an immersive multi-sensory approach to bring forward stories of food, both good and bad. Last up, Sidharth suggested on using food as a medium to get narratives across the audience, and how he used this approach to create social interaction around food and entertainment to create positive change in the audience behavior at Shambala Festival.

The panel discussion put a spotlight on the socio-political, economical, environmental and cultural challenges around food and generating/initiating global action for a better and improved future. The session came to an end with a lively Q&A round with the participants.


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