New Paper on Using the Arts for Food Research and Dialogue

Everyone can speak the language of food because we must all eat. Equally, everyone can engage in creative activities regardless of their perceived ability.

Collage as a creative method to explore food issues. Photo from BSUFN-FRC workshop held in London in May 2016.

Last year BSUFN teamed up with the Food Research Collaboration (City University London) and the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (Coventry University) to host a workshop on using arts-based methods for research and dialogue around food issues. The use of creative methods facilitates engagement and can initiaite dialogue with a range of groups, from community groups, to private sector elites, to researchers and academics.

 

Today, the Food Research Collaboration has published a new briefing paper on ‘Using the Arts for Food Research and Dialogue’. This paper came out of the success of the workshop held in London in May 2016. The paper was co-authored by members of BSUFN along with other academics and civil society groups. You can read the briefing paper here.

Drama as a creative method to explore food issues. Photo from BSUFN-FRC workshop in London in May 2016.

The paper particularly examines creative arts-based methods through a participatory and community-centred approach to research and community engagement.  The briefing paper explores the use of photography, drama, and collage, providing details of the approach, method, and other considerations, as well as case studies of how the methods have been used for engagement on food issues. It is hoped that this briefing paper will be of interest to researchers and civil society groups who are working on food-related issues.

A range of resources and information about the different methods, including additional examples from case studies and the outputs from the BSUFN-FRC workshop held in 2016 are available here.

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Can we love food and not worry about sugar?

“Sugar, sugar, sugar- who doesn’t love it right? It is everywhere and in everything and a long time ago, we thought that was a good thing, or at least not that bad of a thing…” writes Julie Montagu (2015).

 

Obesity is rising; experts are telling us to drastically reduce sugar consumption, while advertisers are telling us otherwise. Slow Food Sussex have convened the panel to examine the evidence, navigate the conflicting advice and help to bring about a very necessary change. Craig Sams, main speaker and co-founder of Green & Blacks chocolate says, “It’s about everything in moderation.’. “You get more pleasure out of the things that you don’t overdo.”

Conversations on Sugar

28th April 2017 – 18:30

One Church, Gloucester Place, Brighton , BN1 4AA

 

The conversation will cover various aspects of this issue. Why do we crave sugar? How does the food industry slip more sugar in to our food? What external factors drive our compulsion to eat sugar? Can the gut be re-trained to stop cravings? How can parents help their children to consume less? Can taxes and regulations have any impact?

 

Speakers include:

  • Craig Sams, Co-founder of Green and Black’s chocolate,
  • Jo Rallings, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, and
  • Dan Parker, Sugar Smart Brighton.

The evening will begin with free canapes and drinks will also be available for purchase.

 

Tickets cost £6 and can be purchased here.

 

Conversations on Sugar is hosted by Slow Food Sussex in collaboration with BSUFN.

BSUFN Symposium 2017 – Provocation: The problem with the past

At this year’s symposium we decided not to have a keynote speaker, but to open up the floor to anyone attending to issue a provocation relating to food, it’s production, politics or study. There were four provocations.

This is the provocation given by Food Network member Abigail Wincott of the University of Brighton.

I study alternative food movements and politics of lifestyle and consumption. These lifestyle discourses are often very politicised. There is stuff relating to personal health, fashions and fads, like macarons or kale. But a lot of it is more or less overtly about a number of big issues that really are important.

There is a concern for social justice or fairness – an interest in the impact on workers and consumers of the quest for excessive profits, and of the dominance of corporations over the food system. A lot of attention is paid to the environmental damage caused by the same.

In addition, I’ve found there is a lot of concern expressed about a loss of diversity. This may be expressed as a blandness and homogeneity of food culture or of food itself and also characterises the experience of shopping for it. This is generally regarded as a negative byproduct of globalised capitalist food systems.

There is a concern about obesity, of course. This isn’t just a personal issue in lifestyle media, it is talked about as a social issue, one that the government or industry or society needs to take charge of.

Finally, there is a lot of talk about loss – loss of foods, loss of knowledge, a loss of pleasure. For example there are lots of references to the way people don’t know how to shop for the best, cheapest foods anymore, that they don’t sit and eat together anymore. In a sense this is an idea of a loss of pleasure in life. I guess this is also connected closely to the sense of homogeneity, and to the colonisation of life by corporations.

Now in these lifestyle stories about what is wrong with food and what puts it right, ‘the past’ keeps cropping up. The past takes various forms:

  • nostalgia for the way things used to be or taste
  • the past as a benchmark (a dinner plate used to be so big, people used to spend X amount on food, people used to know how to cook)
  • heritage – protect what is disappearing before it is lost forever
  • retro or historic themes or imagery: The ministry of food, bunting, wartime and austerity, for example.

I am partial to all of this myself, and of course I write about the uses of the past in lifestyle media. I’m not going to join in the dismissal of these uses of the past as automatically socially conservative, elitist or misinformed. People are using these ‘pasts’ to argue for different and better futures.

But I think we have to give some more thought to the way we use the past.

When we think about the future through the past, that affects what we think about, the solutions we come up with and how we feel about them. My problem with our uses of the past are that we tend to think in terms of individual solutions (lifestyle, individual consumer choice) and not to think about the modern state and complex social organisation, or modern technology.

Our ideas about the past are culturally produced: western, gendered, classed, colonial. They’re not a window onto reality.

Thinking through the past isn’t ubiquitous, people buy novel and high tech foods. People start co-ops and campaign for government regulation using a health science frame instead of a nostalgia frame, for example. But it’s pretty ubiquitous among alternative food types and that includes campaigners and academics. journalists, food writers…

It seems to me that these uses of the past are a heuristic. They have allowed us to boil down some very complex considerations in ways that allow us to ‘feel’ what is wrong or right, at a glance. Simple, traditional, like our grandparents cooked and ate, like other people’s grandparents cooked and ate – these things can come to ‘feel’ right. That helps us make fast judgements about what to eat, what to buy and what causes to support.

This heuristic has served its purpose and I think now it’s holding us back. We need to be more critical. We could cast our historical net wider for more unusual practices and ideas.

We need to ask more specific questions. The Green Revolution, mechanised production of food – are they just 100% intrinsically bad, or specifically bad for contingent reasons, like who profits from them or particular techniques that can be changed?

That would allow us to try some thought experiments. What if… we had factories making food, run by not-for-profit organisations? Might they be more energy efficient than home cooking, each of us heating our own ovens in our own home kitchens? That can’t be ‘felt’ to be right, within the dominant lifestyle discourse, which says, go back to the home, go back to traditional methods of production, go back to the small producer.

Industrialisation and high tech solutions to food problems are collective, public approaches to feeding the world. At the moment they are largely profit-making, but that doesn’t make them private in the sense of individual or small-scale. They are mass solutions to mass problems. This collective action on feeding the world has been developing over thousands of years. Social organisation is something people do really well. That mass organisation, planning and economies of scale are hidden in almost all the discourses of good food that look to the past.

The possible exception is the nostalgia for the post-war era – the idea of the Ministry of Food and the benevolent state, which Rebecca Bramall and others have written about. This is a time when people believed more wholeheartedly in progress and modernity. When the British had been hungry until they had been fed by state organised rations. They knew the past could be hungry and dirty and unregulated. People were a bit happier to embrace the new and the large-scale.

But generally,still our heuristic holds us back Some new ideas can’t be understood, don’t make sense if we look through the past in ways we do – tackling global social problems as individuals.

What injustices will become visible, if we stop assuming our ideas about the past are neutral and ‘true’? What kind of society-wide solutions could we find, that we have never found before, if we stop using the past as our benchmark? Who might we hold to account if we stop focusing on food as individual choice?


Would you like to post a provocation about food and its research? Let us know using the contact form and we’ll get back to you.

Register Now for Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future Symposium #BSUFN17

Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future: BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017
Monday 6th of February 2017
9:00 – 17:20
Auditorium, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YD
You can now register to attend the BSUFN Annual Symposium on the 6th of February 2017. Tickets cost £11.21. Buy tickets to attend here.
Lunch and refreshments will be provided.
During the symposium we will be using the hashtag #BSUFN17 so please join the conversation if you are on Twitter.

There has been much talk of the ways in which the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, or ‘Brexit’, will impact British farmers due to changes to the Common Agricultural Policy. We believe that Brexit will have far reaching effects across the food systems in many ways, in the UK, Europe and beyond. From policy implications for food safety standards and nutrition labels, to international trade and markets, to controls on chemical pesticides and the regulation of genetically modified (GM) organisms, and to diet and public health, and more.

To reflect current discussions about Brexit and its implications, the BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017 will consider food agendas in a post-Brexit future. This will reflect anticipated impacts of Brexit on the UK food system as well as implications for food agendas in other countries and regions of the world. Topics will explore the future of food in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, likely to be 2019, and more distant horizons.

The provisional programme for the symposium is available here: Provisional programme

Time Session
9:00-9:20 Registration, tea/coffee
9:20-9:30 Welcome
9:30-10:15 Provocations

Brexit Implications for Food Agendas

Chair: Rachael Taylor

Speakers to include: Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, The Linseed Farm, University of Brighton, and the Institute of Development Studies

10:15-11:15 Session 1 – Policy Dynamics

Chair: Abigail Wincott

Prof. Erik Millstone

The future of UK food & agricultural policies post-Brexit

Peter Senker

Post-Truth Politics and Food Poverty in the UK  after Brexit

11:15-11:45 Tea/coffee break
11:45-13:15 Session 2 – Panel Discussion – Learning from Global Discourses

Chair: Rachael Durrant

Three 15-minute presentations followed by 45 minutes of open discussion

Dipak Sarker

Use, History and Promises, Both True and Untrue, of Genetically-Modified (GM) Crops: Reflections Post-Brexit

Jennifer Constantine

Prospects for the Sustainable Development Goals in post-Brexit Britain: learning from Brazil’s experience with food and nutrition governance

Rachael Taylor

Finding the Future in the Past: Agroecology and Remnants of Colonialism in Senegal

13:15-14:15 Lunch
14:15-15:00 Future Food Agendas

Synergies for Policy, Practice and Research

Chair: Jennifer Constantine

15:00-16:00 Session 3 – Sustaining Farming through Brexit

Chair: Dipak Sarker

Adrian Ely

Transforming Food Systems in Brighton and Hove – Local Opportunities within a Changing Global Context

Helena Howe

Farming through Brexit

16:00-16:20 Tea/coffee break
16:20-17:20 Session 4 – Ecological Knowledge and Policy

Chair: TBC

Elise Wach

What scope for food sovereignty in a post-Brexit Future?

Jeremy Evans

A radical Regionalisation of fisheries quota for LIFE: developing new mechanisms of emancipatory fisheries governance

17:20 Close – move to Earth and Stars, 46 Windsor Street, Brighton, BN1 1RJ for a social evening

Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future – Symposium Programme Available

Monday 6th of February 2017

9:00 – 17:20

Auditorium, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YD

Provisional Programme  – a full version of the programme with abstracts is available by following this link: Provisional programme

Time Session
9:00-9:20 Registration, tea/coffee
9:20-9:30 Welcome
9:30-10:15 Provocations

Brexit Implications for Food Agendas

Speakers to include: Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, The Linseed Farm, University of Sussex, University of Brighton, and the Institute of Development Studies
10:15-11:15 Session 1 – Policy Dynamics
Prof. Erik Millstone

The future of UK food & agricultural policies post-Brexit

Peter Senker

Post-Truth Politics and Food Poverty in the UK  after Brexit

11:15-11:45 Tea/coffee break
11:45-13:15 Session 2 – Panel Discussion – Learning from Global Discourses

Three 15-minute presentations followed by 45 minutes of open discussion

Dipak Sarker

Use, History and Promises, Both True and Untrue, of Genetically-Modified (GM) Crops: Reflections Post-Brexit

Jennifer Constantine

Prospects for the Sustainable Development Goals in post-Brexit Britain: learning from Brazil’s experience with food and nutrition governance

Rachael Taylor

Finding the Future in the Past: Agroecology and Remnants of Colonialism in Senegal

13:15-14:15 Lunch
14:15-15:00 Future Food Agendas

Synergies for Policy, Practice and Research

15:00-16:00 Session 3 – Sustaining Farming through Brexit
Adrian Ely

Transforming Food Systems in Brighton and Hove – Local Opportunities within a Changing Global Context

Helena Howe

Farming through Brexit

16:00-16:20 Tea/coffee break
16:20-17:20 Session 4 – Ecological Knowledge and Policy
Elise Wach

What scope for food sovereignty in a post-Brexit Future?

Jeremy Evans

A radical Regionalisation of fisheries quota for LIFE: developing new mechanisms of emancipatory fisheries governance

17:20 Close – move to Earth and Stars, 46 Windsor Street, Brighton, BN1 1RJ for a social evening

 

Discovering Food in Brighton through Photography

Last week BSUFN facilitated a workshop hosted by the University of Brighton Student’s Union. During this workshop students explored food through photography and photography through food.

The workshop gave an opportunity to experiment with using photography to explore food issues, create narratives around food, initiate communication and engagement on food issues, and as a research method for food topics. During the workshop participants spent time with a camera in central Brighton capturing scenes related to food.

Workshop participants found that when looking for food-related things to photograph they noticed things in Brighton which they would not otherwise notice. The resulting photos paid attention to details which individually may seem insignificant but when seen together create narratives around food issues in central Brighton.

One of the narratives which emerged from the photographs was around food waste, including seagulls eating food from bins and even a discarded refrigerator with rotting milk inside.

    

Given the time of year, one theme which arose in photos was the use of Christmas in food retail.

Again considering the retailing of food, a third narrative which emerged through photos was the use of language on boards outside cafes. This identified humour, descriptive and romanticised language.

Discussion during the workshop also led to ideas for further exploration of food through photography so watch this space for more events and news on this method in food dialogues!

Other resources about the use of photography as a creative method in food research and dialogue are available here.

BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017 – Call for Abstracts

Call for Abstracts

Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future

Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network Annual Symposium 2017

6th February 2017

There has been much talk of the ways in which the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, or ‘Brexit’, will impact British farmers due to changes to the Common Agricultural Policy.  We believe that Brexit will have far reaching effects across the food systems in many ways, in the UK, Europe and beyond. From policy implications for food safety standards and nutrition labels, to international trade and markets, to controls on chemical pesticides and the regulation of genetically modified (GM) organisms, and to diet and public health, and more.

To reflect current discussions about Brexit and its implications, the BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017 will consider food agendas in a post-Brexit future. This may reflect anticipated impacts of Brexit on the UK food system as well as implications for food agendas in other countries and regions of the world. Topics may explore the future of food in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, likely to be 2019, or a more distant horizon.

Submissions are invited from researchers, undergraduate and postgraduate students, non-academic organisations, community groups, practitioners, policy-makers, and other interested parties or individuals. Submissions from any disciplinary background are welcomed. We welcome submissions for presentations, posters, or discussion sessions. As much of the outcome of Brexit may be uncertain, stimulants for discussion sessions are particularly welcome.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 350 words in length. The abstract should contain a brief description of the topic, a title, contact details of the corresponding individual, names of any collaborators, and the format of the presentation or other contribution. Abstracts should be submitted via e-mail to food.network@sussex.ac.uk by 17:00 on Friday the 16th of December 2016. Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their submission no later than Friday the 23rd of December 2016.

If you would like to become a member of the Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network, you can register your interest using the online form or by expressing your interest via e-mail to food.network@sussex.ac.uk

The BSUFN Symposium will be a full day on the 6th of February 2017. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. The symposium will be held in Brighton, UK.

Registration to attend the BSUFN Symposium is £10. Registration will open soon, please check the website for further details.

Details for the symposium will be made available online as they are updated. Please check the website for updates.