A reflective blog by Combine to Create Small Halls Artist in Residence Neil Callaghan on his time collaborating with communities in Findhorn last summer.
During my residency at Findhorn Village Centre, a thriving community centre on the Moray coast, I proposed to make a community cookbook that would gather recipes from local residents.
Over the course of my three months at the centre, I ran open sessions which invited local residents and the wider community to come and eat homemade soup, bread and cake in exchange for a recipe for the cook book.
Engagement during the sessions ran from everything between intimate one-to-one conversations and lively exchanges with the different people who would use the hall.
My hunch when starting the project was that food is something that can bring people together, and that when we are sharing food we have a different kind of social relation – one that is based on the pleasure of eating.
This proved to be true. I was touched by the conversations that emerged from these open sessions, often between people who had met for the first time.
Thinking about what kind of recipe to contribute often instigated interesting exchanges between people – such as favourite dishes from family members who have passed, favourite recipes from childhood, local specialities that were at risk of being forgotten, even suitable meals for dentures.
We also held a special celebration event as part of the 4th Findhorn Bay Festival, where community members came together to share food and drink and participate in food-focused creative engagement.
During this journey I was lucky enough to meet local illustrator Inga Orsi who agreed to give visual life to the recipes. Inga brought a lot of creative ideas and a unified visual aesthetic to the cook book.
Once the COOK! BOOK! had been printed, we held a last community get together at the Village Centre, with many of the contributors joining us for a final feast. It was a treat to see people from Findhorn Village, Findhorn Park Eco-Village and further afield sharing food and conversation together.
My hope is that the distribution of the COOK! BOOK! gives a little flavour of Findhorn and some of its residents, but more importantly I hope it is a catalyst for more exchanges of food and intimate conversation.
Neil Callaghan is an artist who works between theatres, galleries and specific sites. After training in theatre, he has spent twenty years working throughout Europe between dance and socially engaged practice.
Find out more about Combine to Create over on our project page.