Sustenance Supper


Thanks to all of you who managed to come the Sustenance Supper. It was a heart-warming event that, I think, demonstrates Brighton is ready for a new environmental consciousness. Below is a quick summary of the most compelling topics discussed during the dinner. Please feel free to contact me or Fabrica with any suggestions on how to continue this conversation.

The general consensus was that it was wonderful to have all these people/organisations together to explore these questions without any pressure to find solutions at this stage. In particular Lydia from ONCA thought that CiCi’s residency presented an interesting model – artist’s embedded in businesses/commercial projects accompanying employees through process and sharing the same environment. Lydia also thinks it would be great to continue the conversation, ONCA would love to explore other ways of working together.

An anonymous commented that the event helped break open the silos that we work in to stimulate discussion on enduring value, which is probably one of the most important topics of our time. In a throw away, time limited, trend based culture, creating value in every aspect of our lives, value that will last through generations, matching the cycle of life that exceeds our individual life times is really important. The people that were present at this event are all working in their way to create enduring value, some with timeless art, others presenting nature, looking after our world. The biggest problem in Brighton is that we don’t collaborate, work together to make change in society.

Another participant commented that we should all make the effort to make it happen. Commenting that joining  art to business is a  what produced change. Let’s create change in our world starting here in Brighton.

This is the transcription of a graphic that was drawn by anonymous which illustrates the consequences of consumption where the consumer has been involved in the process of creation, in the upper semicircle, and consequences of consumption without participation in the production, in the lower. Following CiCi presentation where she talked about consumption as necessary for humans – without it we would died. But there are consequences when people are alienate from the process of creating what we consume. This process brings connection and a sense of belonging without which we feel compelled to consume without ever being satisfied, obsessively looking for more to fill a gaping, deep void.

More comments on how this kind of exchange will favour the stimulation of great ideas that could make this city, different from any other city, stimulating hubs for communities, artists, businesses and people. Getting together is the only way we can produce a space of enduring value. Defining this idea and transmitting it through education is what is needed to guarantee it’s sustainability. Another comment adds to this advocating for a “Brighton Salon” seen as a communication mechanism that reaches all artists, creative businesses/interested parties. “Although difficult to achieve, smaller invited salon events might create the heart that a bigger salon community springs from.”

A further opinion sees the need for a contemporary art gallery in Brighton with “proper” funding which reflects the wealth of creativity in the city. This was echoed by another participant who thought much of what we seem to share common ground on is the idea of something shared and something retained but also expression. The participant would love to form a group that meets with a single purpose, for example a sustainable modern art gallery; maybe forming a “fundraising pressure group to turn the old Middle Street theatre/bingo hall which could include a dedicated ‘digital’ section to leverage the local skills that have evolved in Brighton. It would cement Brighton as a creative hub with free-thinkers and would act as a pressure valve for the expression of community feeling. A people art gallery to keep and develop the place’s edge, its bohemian valves, its vibrancy. It transcends class, it bridges opinion, it connects”.

Another voice affirmed that Brighton is a magical place. Creative, friendly and evolving. “It is at the beginning of a renaissance. Small businesses and artists need support and together we can create something unique”.

Lez comments are as follows

Sustainable, evolving, revolutionary, creative awareness linking small businesses with the arts involving young and elderly connecting with all-seeing all-hearing all-touching and all-engaging kindness, wonder learning, nurturing knowledge, gathering visual tactile smell and encompassing awareness. Lez.”

Brighton and Hove Food Partnership thoughts hovered around the homeless and the vulnerable and giving people access to green spaces and encouraging “sustainable” foraging, contact with nature also helps with mental health and community cohesion. BHFP also, advocated for more meeting where venues and organisers could rotate and a pot luck event where we all share food prep.These more practical suggestions were followed by more such tips specifically regarding online organising and the use of Trello. Practical question regarding What is needed? Could Fabrica be a venue? Who can provide what? What to do about admin? Self organising? Small membership fee? And how to organise a people sign up? In addition to statements regarding creating a good environment  where less should be done but structured in a fun way, there were also calls to understand what is the objective? Brand and strategies? Motivation and tool set?

The artist has a different perspective towards environmental debate; a perspective that differs from scientists who tend to use statistics and number. Artists can provide a more introspective vision of ecological themes connecting with the subject.

An interesting comment I heardduring the dinner regards the need for space for both artists and businesses. A local business was describing their struggle to negotiate a reduction in a 44% rent increase and how expensive the whole process was which included hiring a negotiator. Part of the problem is that the company who owns the building is based abroad and has no direct dealings with the local community working through an agent. What do we do when faced with the fact that there are forced above our community that act only for profit? How can we build resilience here and find space for all?

On reflection

After a great day out at Stamner Park for All About Apples. Here are some reflection about my residence so far.

During my residency I have had the opportunity to look at different aspects of Brighton’s reality, investigating individual and community initiatives, sustainable businesses and organisation in Brighton. These initiatives are working to fill gaps in social provision, energy efficiency, self sufficiency, biodiversity and heritage conservation with a long-sighted view to the future and their approach recognises the need to look after each other, the environment and the city’s sustainability in a deeper and fuller way.

I have had outstanding conversations with a variety of people trying to understand what makes a place of enduring value. My first conversation partner was Kayla Ente who set up the not for profit energy service co-operative, BHESCo, working to develop renewable energy projects, improve energy efficiency, reduce fuel bills and tackle fuel poverty. Kayla is a true inspiration and loves what she does using her business expertise and award winning business model to better her community. Kayla gave a talk at Fabrica to talk about her work and raise awareness of her organisation.

Brighton & Hove Council’s Lookerer scheme is also a great insight into the city’s workings  combining biodiversity conservation, heritage and municipal maintenance constraints. Lookerers are volunteer urban shepherds trained to look after sheep which maintain the chalk grassland habitat in the traditional way whilst saving the council money and helping to save the environment. An artist walk was organised to visit the site and talk lookerer, Jane Hakwins and Cityparks Ranger Paul Gorringe.

The Bevy Pub is a community driven project that started from a closed down pub with a bad past in the Bevendean estate in Brighton. Through a steep learning curve a small group of committed community members managed to raise £200.000 to redevelop the old dodgy pub and convince local residents that it was actually a good idea to revive it. The new community pub now has seven hundred shareholders and is an example of the resourcefulness of Brighton communities in finding new models to maintain the resilience of their community and create spaces where all ages, genders and classes can mix and come together. A tour was organised to visit the pub and meet some of the founders, volunteers and punters.

For Every Apples Tells a Story and All About Apples, Peter May from the National Collection of Sussex Apples, introduced us to the thirty-two varieties of Sussex apples on two separate occasions. Firstly, during Conversation Piece, a classic conversational event at Fabrica that was revived to give Fabrica’s audience the opportunity of an informal chat. And secondly an artist walk in Stamner Park was organised to visit the orchards of Sussex apples hosted by Brighton Permaculture Trust. Peter May is doing a thorough job to maintain these varieties, perfect for Sussex soil and gain knowledge on how to grow apple tree on difficult chalky soil.

Another exclusion was organised for Edible Landscapes where the founders of Old Tree Brewery, representing a new generation of ethical businesses, are engaging in sustainable brewing with small batches and local forging for ingredients. A perfect example of how it is possible to set up a for profit business whilst respecting nature and the place they live.

In addition to these events, I also engaged in conversations with larger, national organization present in Sussex such as the Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, West Sussex. I went to meet Assistant Head of Collections, John Dickie to talk about the work that the MSBP is doing globally and locally to education around ideas of biodiversity. The conversation was recorded and is available on the blog. I personally feel that the MSBP and Kew Gardens, of which MSBP is part, is working hard to distance itself from it’s colonial past, but more can be done. I am particularly skeptical of Dickie’s support for mono crops and large scale agriculture in the global south; this is seen as the only present solution to feeding the world’s population, surely for an institution that is trying to preserve global biodiversity there can be a more suitable position? Also although there are bilateral agreements between countries involved in the MSBP it must be recognised that Kew Gardens still holds the reins in these situations as it is the partner that brings the majority of the funding to other, less fortunate countries. It is noticeable that countries with rich biodiversity patrimonies such as Brazil and India are uneasy with sharing their plants and sending specimens to the bank.

I also chewed the fat with Roni Guetta from Traumfrau who represents a more liminal reality in Brighton. Traumfrau is an alternative club night in Brighton which has been shaped by it’s community receiving direct input from it. For me this represents an alternative model, not only for entertainment, but also as instrument for social cohesion, where fun meets art and business. In fact this is a paid for event which is still affordable, but that enables it’s organisers to work without constrictions from arts organisations to create something different. Traumfrau is also an example of  an initiative organised by non-British residents that have contributed to the cultural life in Brighton bringing new ways of socialising.

I think Brighton is already a place of enduring value and it would be interesting to continue working along these themes in the future to understand where people can support each other to speak out and argue the case for solidarity and collectively owned public services which are under attack nationwide, but also to provide fair rent for artist and businesses, fair wages for those who do vital caring work, justice and equality for migrants and refugees, and a genuinely sustainable relationship between the economy and the planet. Artist can have role to play here as interlopers, individual who manage to straddle different environments working to creative situations and conversations.




In Conversation With Roni Guetta From Traumfrau

I had a great conversation with Roni Guetta from Traumfrau a truly enlighten way to party the night way whilst being part of a community. In fact Traumfrau is “Brighton’s  most unusual queer night”coming to you every month from a different venue. It incorporates all sorts of playful performances in settings such as outdoor festival-like parties with fire pits and a pool to club nights all with great DJs. Every event is unique and orchestrated by Traumfrau’s team, its collaborators and the input of it’s supporters.
I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did!

Every Apple Tells a Story

Last Tuesday it was great to be able to revive the old tradition of Conversation Piece with Every Apple Tells a Story during which we were joined by expert Peter May, Co-founder of the National Collection of Sussex Apples. It was great to see some old friends and some new faces too. During the event’s lively conversation, Peter introduced a variety of apples from Sussex to the participants; starting with Saltcote Pippin which is directly traceable to a tree in a particular lane near Rye and is the most oriental of the Sussex Apples. The Golden Pippin was also mentioned together with the Tinsley Quince which is named so thanks to the intense quince perfume it emanates even though the fruit does not taste of quince.

As I mentioned the conversation was lively and many participants were curious and asked many questions about apple season, the value of keeping apples seeds and the work that is taken forward by Peter and the Collection. Apparently it is very difficult to grow healthy apple trees that will give good fruits on chalk; most of the varieties present in Sussex do not originate on the Downs, but the majority come either from north of the Downs or in areas, like valleys and ridges, where organic matter has been able to accumulate and transform into soil.

A very interesting part of the conversation regarded the art of grafting apple trees in order to have a consistent tasting fruit. In fact it is very difficult to get a good apple from a seed as every seed contains a different genetic make up which will influence the way the fruit tastes. To be able to have a fruit that always has the same characteristic it is necessary to clone the plant through a process called grafting – a section of the original tree is attached to a root stock that will continue growing and produce the fruit from the original tree.

It was great to see representatives from the Dundee Urban Orchard and from the Millennium Seed Bank Project at the event both of whom contributed to the event’s great debate. Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse of Every Apple Tells a Story and feel free to comment or write to me directly.

Millennium Seed Bank Conversation


This is a conversation I had with John Dickie, Assistant Head of Collections at the Kew. I met up with John at the Millennium Seed Bank Project in Wakehurst, West Sussex, where we talked about biodiversity and the work that the MSBP is doing to contain the worst effects of climate change with regards to declining biodiversity, but also how the project works with international partners from all over the world. It was a very interesting conversation and I hope you enjoy it.

Excitingly, John will be joining us for Conversation Piece: Every Apples Tells A Story on the 9th August at Fabrica from 2:30pm together with Peter May, co-founder of the National Collection of Sussex Apples hosted at the Brighton Permaculture Trust.


Reflections on UNIDEE

During my time at UNIDEE in Biella, Northern Italy, I learned  about the land and the intricate layering of traces and presences in Biella, a process called  Territorialisation. This is what produces a sense of place and of belonging, a common sense among the people living on the territory, but also it underlines who has the power to make a mark on the land. Angelo Turco, a leading expert on the subject, says that Territory is about control. To make space into place and occupy it, then divide it and define what that place has to be and make the rules of the place. So, from my understanding, Biella is a beautiful land dominated by the Catholic Church, the state, industrialists, practices of communal sharing dating back to the medieval times and, more recently, a conflict between migrants making a place and locals straggling to give up already long abandoned spaces to them. The Pistoletto Foundation is embedded in the city in dialogue with it and working towards a new way.

Below are some random  picture of my stay in Biella.




Lambs Tales

The excursion to Whitehawk Hill for Lambs Tales, the first of the Ecologies of Place walks was a time of discovery. We were greeted at the bus stop by one of the Brighton & Hove Lookerer volunteers, Jane Hawkins, who showed us the way to the top of the hill through a coppicing wood and a series of allotments. On the way  Jane introduced some facts about a mysterious archeological site the sheep from the Lookerer project share the space with, Whitehawk Camp, a causewayed enclosure where archeologists think activity commenced around 3650BC. The inhabitants of the camp (Brighton’s first residents!) were probably using the camp on a periodic basis to meet and carry out ritual activities including feasts and ceremonies. Causewayed enclosures lie on the boundary between hunter/gathering and settled farming based lifestyles: these monuments therefore represent one of the most significant cultural transitions in human history. Below are some reconstruction from the Whitehawk Camp Community Archaeology Project

Brighton & Hove City Ranger, Paul Gorringe, joined us shortly afterwards to talk about the Lookerer Scheme and  why this is a prefect way to enhance biodiversity but also do justice to the archeological site, whilst saving the council some pennies.In fact Whitehawk Hill is home to one of Britain’s rarest and richest natural habitats: ancient chalk grassland. But this natural landscape is only as old as sheep farming that, combined with  range of activities over time, has created a variety of habitat types and around 40 different plant species can be found in a square meter of turf. The hill provides a habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna including rare and threatened species of butterfly, orchids and invertebrates. There are also important local varieties of fruit trees on the hill. Paul explains to us that sheep are ideal for keeping the grass short and nutrient poor so to encourage  the growth of smaller wild flowers that would not get space to grow in a nutrient rich soil where bigger bushes and trees would quickly take over and cover the ground.


From the top of Whitehawk Hill there are spectacular panoramic views of the whole of Brighton & Hove, the sea and the Downs. It felt like the right place for a the huge sacred construction with impressive white ditches, high banks and the tall wooden palisades; a sacred space that would have conveyed a sense of mystery to a neolithic person walking through it to reach the centre. I can’t help but see a very strong connection to Pistoletto’s piece at Fabrica, Whitehawk Camp gives me the impression of a huge labyrinth in the landscape, a place where our ancestors gathered to be together, a place of beauty and spirituality.