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For a second year, artists and school children transformed Southwark Bridge from a traffic-bound thoroughfare into a communal public space for a huge harvest feast, with 300m of tables, ceremonies, pumpkins, music and a hay fight.

feast on the bridge
Feast on the Bridge
On Saturday 13 September 2008, Southwark Bridge in London was closed to traffic and transformed by a team of artists led by curator Clare Patey into a dining space running the entire length of the bridge as part of the London Mayor's Thames Festival.

Feast on the Bridge was a spectacular communal harvest supper that reconnected an urban public with the food-growing cycle and encouraged people to reclaim a public space.

The event gave people a chance to share a meal and conversation together.

Children from local primary schools had worked over six months with gardener Karen Wydler, chef Ken Hawksworth to grow pumpkins at their schools.

With performers Toby Jones and Ayse Tashkiran the children devised the opening ceremony. An alternative 'grace' composed by Howard Goodall was sung by two children's choirs.
fotb children
children at the Feast on the Bridge

The children brought their pumpkins to Feast on the Bridge. The pumpkins were then cooked into soup by Miche Fabre Lewin for a High Tide Deep Soup ceremony, and a Low Tide Deep Soup Ceremony. The shells were carved into lanterns to light the tables at night.

The 300 metres of banqueting tables were covered with specially commissioned tablecloths.

Each place setting was printed with an illustration of a food story collected from Londoners in the run up to the event by artist Sophie Herxheimer.

A selection of locally produced, ethically sourced, seasonal food was on sale throughout the day.

On the bridge and at either end, there was storytelling, seed sharing, pumpkin carving, apple-bobbing, a pumpkin growing competition, music, dancing, magic and a giant hay fight
fotb jones and pupils
Toby Jones rehearses with pupils
from Rossendale Primary School

Clare Patey set out some of her intentions for the Feast:

    "The Feast is all about bringing together thousands of people to share food and conversation, and reimagines a traditional harvest celebration in the heart of the city."

    "Actually, it's just about bringing people together to eat and have a good time."

    "I want to address some of the big food issues, such as the link between producer and consumer, food miles, obesity, particularly among children, and the effects of our grazing culture."

    "In the end, people have to enjoy themselves. Personally, I find the informal bits - like the conversations between the kids - are as important as the formal parts."

the Hayfight
The schools involved were Rossendale, Reay, Boutcher and Crampton Primary schools.

Musicians included the Bohemia Ukulele Band, Bobby Valentino and Los Pistoleros, Circo Abusivo, The Zen Hussies, Carlos and the Bandidos and Cut A Shine.


fotb night shot
the Feast at night

Photos: Tim Mitchell

published in 2008

Read Matthew Fort's preview of Feast on the Bridge in the Guardian.
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