‘Food arrives on our plates as if by magic, and we rarely stop to wonder how it got there,’ observes Carolyn Steel in Hungry City. Increasing urbanization and wealth have divorced many people from the land, which has, in turn, led to a lack of public awareness and a degree of apathy about where and how we produce our food. Predictions warn that global food production must rise by 50% by 2030 in order to meet the requirements of an expanding and more affluent human population. This increased food production must be accomplished by meeting the challenges of global climate change and an impending water and energy shortage without causing further erosion of the natural environment. Allotments, community gardens and orchards, and ‘incredible edible’ projects are cropping up around the world as ways to re-engage the general public with food. We hear a great deal about the benefits of fresh, local food, but could we actually grow and produce enough locally for a complete and healthy diet?
The event used the arts to imagine what ‘growing local’ might mean in the West Midlands, in central England. It proposed imaginative ways to increase public knowledge about how our food is produced and to encourage changes in attitudes and behaviour around issues of food. Using the University of Warwick as a possible model of a community where people live and work, a series of performance installations created by Warwick students and staff, artists, and community volunteers asked questions about and suggested innovative propositions for local food production and consumption in the West Midlands. The installations looked at (N.B. these pages are under development):
- What does 'growing local' mean in the West Midlands
- When we would plant and harvest our crops in Warwickshire
- What can we grow in a protected environment
- What we could do about protein
- What food is already being grown on campus
- Where we could produce more food to create an edible campus
- What other ways can we imagine growing our food
- Why the bees are such good allies
- What locally-sourced, seasonal meals could look like
- What locally-grown herbs and spices can flavour our food
Future Foodscapes: Grow Warwick also launched The Apple Anthology, published by Nine Arches Press in September 2013. It brings together a feast of new work by poets, horticulturists, photographers, translators, artists and plant biologists. Well-known names and budding new talents explore the cultivation and culture of apples and orchards from a range of innovative cross-disciplinary perspectives. Poet and environmental scientist David Morley has contributed a Foreword to complement the anthology’s pieces. The book launch took place in the Writers’ Room, Millburn House. Contributing poets who read their work included David Morley, Jonathan Skinner, Carina Hart, Camilla Nelson and Yvonne Reddick.
Future Foodscapes: Grow Warwick was a pilot project, funded by the Research Development Fund at University of Warwick, in preparation for a larger research project on applied arts and local food initiatives, particularly community gardens. For further details, please contact Dr Susan Haedicke, School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies: email@example.com.
The images are of the University of Warwick allotment - provided by Chris Maughan.