Case Study: Harvest Peterborough
Harvest took place on 19th and 20th September 2015 in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. It was organised by arts organisation ‘Metal’ in partnership with a host of national and international artists; farmers, producers, restauranteurs and allotmenteers; and the local community to bring together a free weekend celebrating food, the land and the unique role agriculture has played in the development of Peterborough.
The two-day celebration filled the city centre with sights, sounds, tastes, smells, songs and dances of the countryside and re-imagined the historic traditions of the Farmers Market, Harvest Wain Procession, Barn Dance and Harvest Supper.
Saturday 19th saw the reinstatement, after 50 years, of a city centre food and craft market showcasing the best of local seasonal produce. Alongside this were heritage craft demonstrations from basketry to garland making, bread making workshops, and performances by Morris, Molly and cultural dance groups accompanied by international folk musicians. Ten new Harvest-themed artworks by leading UK artists, from films to soundscapes, also engaged the public.
In the evening, a spectacular parade of Harvest costumed-characters from dancing cart horses to pagan goddesses, created and performed by local people (included local gardeners, Women's Institute and craft groups), wove its way through the streets. In Cathedral Square they handed over to the Harvest Stage for a night of foot stomping folk rhythms from around the world.
On Sunday 20th international artists Lucy and Jorge Orta presented '70x7 The Meal, Act XXXIX'. This outdoor participatory dinner seated 500 people to discuss local food production, consumption and distribution; with 'conversation starters' baked into loaves of bread and sourced through workshops with local food growers and activists. Guests to the Meal were invited via a network of ambassadors representing the diverse communities of the city and through a public lottery. Those watching were able to sample the menu from open-air kitchens. Seasonal produce for the meal was provided by local community growing projects and farms. The meal was cooked by head chef at Clarkes Peterborough who specialises in locally sourced produce, supported by a team of volunteers from local colleges and learners at HMP Peterborough prison. The local community was invited to bring home-baked bread and cake to share.
In numbers the event took 224 people 1318 hours of time to organise. It reached an audience of 8000 with 1877 active participants!
Mark Richards, organiser of Harvest Peterborough, said “We are utterly delighted to have won the 2015 Harvest Heroes competition.The inspiration for the weekend was all around us. Agriculture and food production has played such a unique role in the history and development of the city. Peterborough is surrounded by the Fens which grows over a third of all the vegetables produced in England, enough wheat annually to produce 250 million loaves of bread and accounts for about half of all Grade 1 agricultural land in England. Also, many of the culturally diverse communities migrated to the city to work seasonally on the land. Yet it was apparent that, for many people, the relationship to the seasons and understanding of where food comes from is being lost. So, we decided to create a cultural festival that would bring communities together to celebrate their shared cultural heritage and also discuss real issues about localism, seasonality, food production and distribution. It was great to see that the different aspects of the festival attracted people from all walks of life.”