Language which nourishes under pain and pressure

at Bristol Food Connections

By Jane Andrews


On 3rd May 2016 Jane Andrews, Alison Phipps and Tawona Sithole ran an event in the “Brain Food” strand of Bristol Food Connections Fringe Festival which involved a dialogue between Alison and Tawona under the heading “Language which nourishes under pain and pressure”.   The festival, in its 3rd year, took place over 9 days and hosted events across the city (see photos) ranging from foraging walks, the ’91 ways to build a global city festival’, a street food village, ‘cook and connect’ events bringing communities together and a performance-based public exhibition by artist Nessie Reid entitled ‘The Milking Parlour’ which brought two live cows into a central Bristol location. The full programme for the festival can be seen here.


Prior to our talk we took the opportunity to join the Bristol Drugs Project Indian Celebration lunch at Hamilton House which was also part of the festival. Over a delicious lunch we learned about the work of Bristol Drugs Project and enjoyed the food prepared by students from the project who had been part of collaborative venture between City of Bristol College and the Community Kitchen. It was a great way of experiencing the theory and practice of how food can bring us together and play a valuable role in our lives.

During our event we used a seminar room in a centrally located venue which is part of UWE to provide a dialogic presentation between Alison and Tawona which allowed poetry to mingle with food reminiscences and academic explorations of food, identities and languages in our changing world. The audience experienced Tawona’s poems and Alison’s stories which were supported by her hand-cooked shortbread biscuits, the recipe for which had been carefully passed on through Alison’s family. We finished the event with some collective activities led by Tawona which resulted in the generation of some shared food related words and phrases from our various languages on our “feedback tablecloth” – take a look at some extracts here:


The presentation drew on some of the ideas informing, and being generated by, the AHRC-funded research project entitled Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Law, the Body and the State. The project is led by Alison Phipps and the focus for the research is on how, in contexts of pain and pressure, language needs to be used with care but can also provide a source of nourishment. Tawona Sithole works on the project as a poet and playwright in the Creative Arts hub and Jane Andrews is a Co-Investigator working in the Researching Multilingually hub.

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