On the weekend of 25-26 March 2022, the Food GRP collaborated with the My-Parish Network and the community of St John the Baptist at Berkswell to stage a pair of events showcasing the role of food & drink in conviviality and the celebration of all kinds of religious as well as cultural occasions. Forming part of the FEAST! theme of the university's Resonate Festival for Coventry UK City of Culture and building on the medieval tradition of 'church ales', a team around Dr Mark Bratton (rector of Berkswell) and Prof. Beat Kümin (History / Parish Network / Food GRP) designed a Beer Festival (on Friday evening) and a cosmopolitan Food Fair (Saturday daytime). These allowed hundreds of visitors to experience a historic church environment like never before and to re-boot their social lives after two years of pandemic restrictions (which had forced us to postpone the Feast Food Fair from its original date of December 2021).
Event Documentation Teaser (for full videos of the Beer Festival / Food Fair see below):
Beer Festival Experience
On the Friday, revellers tasted & ranked 12 real ales from breweries in the region, enjoyed dance music from the Renaissance to ABBA and re-created the atmosphere of a historic parish feast.
Food Fair Impressions
On Saturday, foodies from near & far sampled celebratory dishes and drinks from England via Slovakia and Mexico to Sri Lanka, while parishioners loaded a 'bring & share' table with their own personal favourites. Alongside, Warwick doctoral students and local producers presented specially commissioned research on e.g. Coventry God Cakes, Hot Chocolate, medieval hangover cures and honey-based delicacies.
Reflecting on their overall experience, individual guests thought that food & drink are 'extremely important for collective community', 'universal to humans but different in every culture' and a 'key element of social history'. 'It was good to see the church transformed' and 'easier to learn in a relaxed, social setting'. Others said they found out new things about Baroque drinking music, how a church was used in the past, bee keeping, God Cakes, church ales and medieval hangover cures! Below is a word cloud of the most prominent comments received (with thanks to Kathryn van de Wiel):
... and we're not alone in fostering this kind of spiritual/secular exchange!
At the Mosley Arms in Bolton, the church is regularly coming to the pub (from 33:10) ....
The 'Feast Food Fair' Team
From left: Mark Bratton (Berkswell), Beat Kümin (GRP / My-Parish), Serin Quinn (Warwick), June Smitten (Berkswell), Maggie Curley (Berkswell), Joe Chick (ex-Warwick / My-Parish), Rebecca Swan-McAdam (GRP), Daniel Gettings (Warwick) and Paul Tyler (Berkswell) outside St John the Baptist church, Berkswell, on 26 March 2022. Pic: Dan Watts; other images: BK / RSA; videos: Dan Watts (camera), Lyndsay Smith (editing).