pop up thoughts

 Robin Stevenson serves starters to Andrea Levy
 Our chef Rewati Shahani stirs the crab
Diners dining

These are images from our pop up restaurant held recently at if:book towers, our first experiment with this kind of mix of words and food. As well as Shahani's delicious cuisine and Hattie's lettered dessert, we had readings from Cindy Oswin and Will the Poetry Waiter, art menus from artist in residence Ruth Franklin (and she really IS in residence as she's our lodger for a few weeks), poems and prose on tabletops, painted on bodies, hidden in  glasses and on the floor etc. The feedback was good at the end of an enjoyable evening and the team were relaxing afterwards when word began to trickle through of trouble 'kicking off' nearby in Tottenham and Wood Green... Seems a long time ago already.

It was a strange experience charging visitors to our home for food, particularly as a proportion of guests were friends who we've fed for free on many occasions, but the quality of Rave's cooking and the professionalism of the waiting team did make it feel like something other than a dinner party.

I was keen to see how our domestic space could be adapted for these uses, but pop up culture does bring a mercantile element into places where it's usually happily absent. But in a society of freelancers pitching to work with contacts, money must change hands somehow or we're all losers.

The pop up covered its costs with a little over to pay to Rewati, but it certainly didn't make profit and made us all wonder how anyone with proper overheads manages to make a bean.

It also felt subtly divisive. Which friends could afford to come, which couldn't but wanted to be there? It was hard to ask. I'd much rather have an audience of strangers - but then it also proved hard to coax complete outsiders through the door. We had people in the US and Australia and Portugal eager to attend; others closer to home sounded interested but backed out at the last minute.  Maybe next time.

I'd be interested to hear from others who have tried this kind of thing. It relates to the model we've been exploring here through the Unlibrary for creating a robust local network for literature in austere times.
If the public spaces close, the show can still go on.

Thanks to all who participated.



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