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Feast on the Bridge celebrates food and fun: artist and curator Clare Patey shows us some snapshots

Editors' note: This article was written after the 2009 Feast on the Bridge. Photographs from the 2010 Feast on the Bridge are here and a commentary on 'Feast' as a European Food Festival by Carla Capalbo is here.

For Feast on the Bridge, a team of artists led by Clare Patey transform Southwark Bridge in London into a feasting environment serving a spectacular, communal harvest supper. Feast on the Bridge aims to reconnect an urban public with the growing cycle and to encourage people to reclaim a public space, share a meal, have a dance and conversation.

Here, Clare talks us through some of the snapshots of the day.

fob09 morning tables

Getting ready

"On Friday afternoon we loaded up everything in Peckham and drove to the bridge. The road closes at ten at night, and then we set everything up.

We work all through the night, so this picture was probably taken at six or seven in the morning.

We're building lots of little sets that need to be dressed. There's about 100 tables. We were laying the table for 1,000 people. Each of the place settings on the tablecloths has got an illustrated food story printed onto it, which had been collected from Londoners in the months leading up to the event.

The Feast on the Bridge is part of the Thames Festival. Last year they said 35,000 people came."

fob09 trollies

Gardens on the move

"The shopping trolleys had been taken out of the canal where they'd been chucked and were given to us by British Waterways.

We worked part of the year with three primary schools, a seniors' group, a visually-impaired group, the Guerilla Gardeners, the Coin Street Community and others, and they grew mobile edible gardens.

They also grew them in potato crates, barrels, shopping baskets, recycled boxes, in a skip and in a boat - everything had been used before. We were trying to bring a sense of harvest to the bridge."

fob09 mayo making

Mayo Alchemists

"This is an egg-shaped table and people were invited to come to an mayonnaise-making ritual at high tide and low tide, and there was a more communal free-for-all during the afternoon.

All the eggs were laid by the chickens that were on the bridge that day. Some of the eggs were actually laid on the bridge.

There's something quite alchemical about mayonnaise - because there are only two ingredients."

fob09 edible hats

Eating your hat

"This is an edible hat.

The idea was to make mobile edible hats that people would put on and then they would go round the tables with a pair of scissors and they would chop off bits of the hats into people's dinner.

There were army helmets, top hats, weddings hats and a fez. The hats had nasturtiums, chives, basil, mint, lettuce, and tomatoes. There was watercress growing on the brims."

fob09 beast cake

The Beast Cake

"The Beast on the Bridge was done as a mythical beast of the river.

Konditor and Cook did it. The cake is six metres long and visitors to the bridge were invited to come along and decorate it. The mini-cakes were the Thames and people decorated them with 'watery' colours.

It was a huge thing to move. Twenty people pushed this trolley into the centre of the bridge and then we served the cake, and gave away free tea."

fob09 storyteller

The storyteller

"The storyteller is John Rowe.

He told stories every hour.

All the kids sat round on hay bales. He was trying to persuade the children not to have a hay fight until after he had finished his story."

fob09 hayfight


"When the storyteller finished telling stories there was a massive hay fight.

I'd say about 100 people were throwing hay at each other for four hours. All these adults playing like kids, and kids playing like kids, they were all doing the same thing.

There was something very carefree about seeing an urban population doing such a simple thing."

fob09 pumpkins

Pumpkin lanterns

"The visitors to the bridge carved about 100 pumpkins. There were all sorts. People generally do faces: devils, scary ones, mythical ones. One of the pumpkins was being sick, with lots of pulp coming of its mouth.

It's got a lot going for it: it's traditional, it's autumnal, you can cut out the faces, you can use the pulp for soup, you can give away the seeds so that people grow pumpkins for next year, and it's a lantern.

We put lights in them and took a barrow down the centre of the bridge and handed out the pumpkins, so they lit the tables as evening drew in."

fob09 elvis

Evening music

"At night we had a band, the Bikini Beach Band. NME describes them as the 'kings of surf noir'.

The guy with the Elvis wig was a guy in the crowd. There's three of them that dress as Elvis. I've seen them before. They sit around all day waiting for the music and then they start dancing."

fob09 at night

The feast at night

"There's an incredible view over the Thames. It's dominated by St Paul's, which looks really beautiful at night, and the other way, there's Tower Bridge, and you are in this space that's usually got cars on it, so it's quite magical at night.

It was a balmy evening at the end of one of those Indian summer days. It was probably the nicest day for weeks. We were very lucky."

fob09 aerial
Feast on the Bridge 2009

Feast on the Bridge was funded by the Mayor's Office. The team behind Feast on the Bridge includes:

Alex Barrow - Accordian
Alex Laird - Medical Herbalist
Bikini Beach Band - Music
Cathy Wren - Designer
Clare Brass and Virginia Gardiner - Food Loop
Clare Patey - Curator
Eleanor and Nigel Barrett - The Wine Machine
Hazeldene Farm - Made on the Bridge
Isabel Walker - Facepainting
James Murcott - Biogastronomy
Jeremy Leahy - Build Team
Kathy Taylor - ‘Skip Memorial Potager' Mobile Garden
Keith Jefferson Smith - Made on the Bridge
Konditor and Cook - Beast on the Bridge
London Community Recycling Network - Compost give away
Mari Reijnders - Construction
Miche Fabre Lewin, Flora Gathorne-Hardy and Annabelle Macfadyen - Sacred Mayonnaise Ritual
Mike Gittings - Construction
Miles Irving - Forager
Neil Cooper - Production Manager
Richard Reynolds - Guerilla Gardener
Rose Hamson Flowers - Flowers
Ruth Soroko - Food Card Game
Sean Reynard - Construction
Sophie Dauvois and Rachel Ortas - Okido workshop
Sophie Herxheimer - Artist (tablecloths)
Sorensen and Byrne - ‘Tick-tock' Mobile Garden
Touchwood Trees - Project Gardeners
Tom Beeston - ‘Made on the Bridge' interactive farming experience
Urban Wine Company - Festival Wine Bar
Zoe Cameron and Damaris Boothe- ‘Tuck in' Mobile Gardens
More London kindly supported the Feast on the Bridge growing project.

published in 2009

Feast on the Bridge 2011 will be on 11 September.


Photographs by Tim Mitchell

fob09 apple bobbing


2009 is the third year that Feast on the Bridge has been commissioned by the London Mayor's Thames Festival.


The September day's events also included churning butter, foraging for food along the Thames, treading grapes, bobbing for apples and enjoying foods from sustainable producers.


Clare Patey talks about feasting, food and slowing down on our online film here.


See our story on Feast on the Bridge in 2008 here.

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