If you’re concerned with socio-economic issues in your local community and you have an affinity for the arts, then check out what the guys at Engine have been up to over the past 6 months. Engine, which is manned by Ian Brownbill, musician and director, Angela Samata, head of communications, and Jai Redman, artist and director, have turned their attention to the politics of food and art for their current project, Food on the Table. A quick peek at their blog (http://weareengine.co.uk/our-blog/) reveals a modest mash up of poetry, social commentary, art, and musings on the politics of hunger, poverty, and food.
You will notice the charitable organisations Streetlife and The Bridge are common threads running through the text. That’s no mistake. As Ian Brownbill, states in a recent interview, “We have focused our attention on people who attend and work at Streetlife and The Bridge, The Salvation Army’s project which, amongst other things, provides excellent three course lunches for £1, four days a week”.
At first glance, the imagery, taglines, and overall design of the blog is somewhat playful, toying with the prominent role advertisement now plays in how we decide what ends up on our dining tables. On closer inspection, the site opens up intellectually, asks questions, and appeals to a common humanity. Engine began this project by asking, “How can it be that in 2014 there are streets full of people who can’t put food on the table?” And they spent the next six months investigating this simple question in the most unlikely of ways.
Consider the micro-narrative piece Food or Phone where we learn about Darren who was driven to pawn his mobile phone when his £46 weekly benefit got caught in a bureaucratic mouse trap. The piece is accompanied by a photograph of the loneliest brown bread roll discarded on the street outside Pizza Express. So much can be drawn from this; so many questions are asked almost by not asking, instead showing.
We live in an age of dichotomies: mobile phones versus abject poverty, starvation versus waste. The issues are not new – we have been dealing with poverty and trying to understand where to draw the line between social and personal responsibility since records began. As a society we still have a lot of work to do. The artists at Engine are bringing us fresh, exciting ways to interrogate and investigate. Somehow, in this positive light, it feels like at least part of the solution can and will reveal itself.
Engine are currently working towards a discussion and dinner in March 2015 to be held at the top of the Blackpool Tower (details to be confirmed). It is hoped it will be attended by representatives from The Bridge, Streetlife, the artist community, and politicians, amongst others. The aim is to discuss some of the issues facing people in Blackpool and across the UK, specifically why an act as simple as putting food on the table is still a challenge for so many people. As an added touch, the dinner will take place around a table made especially for the occasion by artist, Jai Redman.
You can learn more about Engine and Food on the Table at their website: http://weareengine.co.uk/
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