Tag Archives: environment

Images from Nottingham National Kitchen, 16 June 2017

My national project to rediscover the public feeding schemes of 100 years ago hit the road again last Friday, when over 100 people in Nottingham were fed for free from a menu 100 years old. We had a jazz band, we had music hall numbers, we dressed up and danced and ate. And all in a stunning Victorian venue designed by renowned architect Watson Fothergill http://www.watsonfothergill.co.uk/

The idea is to highlight how social eating is superior to the basic food bank model and how we can learn a lot from how the government did things 100 years ago. So we fed 100 people food from 100 years ago, including period dishes ‘wet nelly’ and ‘trench cake’.

The local television coverage of the evening is accessible here: https://nottstv.com/programme/social-eating-experiment-takes-locals-back-world-war-one-19-06-17/

The point was to rediscover social eating in an area of nottingham (St Anne’s) with a high food bank dependency and a very diverse demographic. The event was held in the city’s Pakistan Community Centre and involved some fairly diverse groups of people including a choir for children with special needs. We teamed up with Marsha Smith of Super Kitchen and ‘Pulp Friction’ (a Nottingham-based charity for young adults with learning disabilities) and the floor was run by Hospitality guru Dr Clay Gransden, ensuring the night provided an opportunity for young adults with learning disabilities to learn transferable skills for the industry (front of house, table service etc).

The entire project has now been nominated for the Royal Historical Society’s Public History Award 2017 and so was judged on the evening by Professor John Tosh (Royal Historical Society).

All the below images are reproduced by kind permission of Richard Mowberry:


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Britain goes to the polls this Thursday, to mark #GE2017 I’m talking ELECTION CAKE on #r4today on Thursday morning. #foodforthemany



The above is a link to a piece of research I undertook last year – during the US Presidential election – when placed on a research fellowship in the idyllic Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware, USA.

It’s all about election cake – a New England cake traditionally baked at election time, a large fruit cake, often boozy, which historically served a civic function in sustaining voters at the polls.

The article includes historic recipes for anyone wishing to bake an election cake to mark the crucial UK election this Thursday – but make sure you have enough people to help you eat it, for the election cakes of yore were enormous.

Britain votes this Thursday in a crucial election and I am delighted to have been asked onto BBC’s flagship radio news show, the Today programme on Radio 4, to chat about election cake on Thursday morning.


John Lewis Kimmel, Election Day 1815 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1815), Winterthur collection.

If you can’t tune in on Thursday morning at c. 8:50am GMT, the below links to a video I recorded with the Washington Post about the same topic last year.


Everyone loves a bit of cake and I have fond memories of Winterthur librarian Laura Parrish baking a delicious election cake, which we nibbled over tea, quite sure that Donald Trump would never get in. How wrong we were.

I hope that people listen in to Radio 4 this Thursday where they will be sampling the cake in studio: I also hope that the piece inspires people to get out there and vote …

Below are some heritage recipes if you fancy cooking a good ol’ election cake (all courtesy and copyright of Winterthur Museum, DE, USA):








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In praise of Bolivia’s ‘Day of the Pedestrian’


Bolivia’s president Evo Morales divides opinion. Since coming to power in 2005 in what some term the ‘second Bolivian revolution’, the country’s popular leader has established himself as just the sort of Latin American leftist that Washington loves to hate.


Since the recent death of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state has become the standard bearer for Latin American socialism. He’s nationalised the mineral transportation and telecommunications industries and, as a champion of coca leaf production, is at loggerheads with the USA’s ‘war on drugs’.

As is the case with many Latin American leftist politicians, Morales hasn’t quite shaken off the image of the populist caudillo. While he has made some improvements to health, education and infrastructure for the poor, there’s a long way to go. Moreover, he’s been accused of cronyism in the filling of state positions and in his closeness to the nation’s coca barons.


El Dia del Peaton

But I’ve witnessed one policy of Evo’s at first hand and it’s really impressed me. It’s the ‘Day of the Pedestrian’ (Dia del Peaton). Five years ago, Morales decided that the entire country would be traffic free for one day a year. For the good of public health and for social cohesion. The first Sunday of September is now enshrined as that day.

The results are a joy to behold. The first thing you notice is the tranquillity: the absence of the rude, ubiquitous car horn. And with the removal of fumes, the air is actually breathable. The streets resemble an end-of-the-world movie: highways usually clogged with noisy traffic are completely car-free.

Car-free streets

Car-free streets

The most impressive thing, though, is the evidence of people coming together as families, individuals, community. There’s a carnival atmosphere as people reclaim the streets. Children play hoopla, skipping and hopscotch. And further down La Paz’s Avenue of the 16th of July there’s a big ‘zumba’ dance in progress.


Then there are the spontaneous games of football. Few shops are open, but in those that are most of the staff have downed tools in favour of a big kick-about. There is music and street food in abundance and, in the bus central boulevards, the entire affair is subject to low-key marshalling by city officials dressed in zebra costumes.


Of course, Dia Del Peaton is not popular with all. Hotel receptionist Silvia moans about the time it will take her to walk home this evening. But overall, the ‘Day of the Pedestrian’ is a reminder of the beauty of life without the motorcar. It seems to me that this scheme of Evo’s is a definite success.


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