During the first lockdown of 2020, The Bare Project adapted their show, The People’s Palace of Possibility, to take the form of an interactive story of rebellion told through the post. Over 600 people across the country took part, contributing their thoughts, images and reimaginings of how things could be done differently. These contributions built the foundations of the Palace Archive: a national digital archive of hopes and fears for the future.
In The People’s Palace of Possibility, The Bare Project ask questions about the future – how to make it better, fairer, kinder. It doesn’t have to be a massive change, just steps in the right direction. It began as a theatre show, where the audience was invited to describe their own utopia, and to talk about how it could be realised. The audience became “Palace Citizens” and reimagined the world. A lot of cardboard and clay was used to create a physical palace.
When the pandemic began, the Palace had to arrive in the post: as letters, and recordings, as a place that was imagined from home. Palace Citizens declared their utopian visions in their neighbourhoods.
Then, in November and December 2021, The Bare Project ran an in-person Palace in Doncaster, building a Palace Kitchen with local people at the forefront.
For two weeks, The Bare Project took over 60 Hall Gate (the Artbomb shop) and hosted numerous community meals, workshops, discussions about kitchen memories and food justice. They also gave out meals and ingredients to roughly 30 individuals and families who are either socially isolated, or face food insecurity.
Over the course of two weeks the team often had passers-by wandering in to talk about their memories of kitchens, and ideas of food justice in exchange for cups of tea and mince pies.
We collected stories and ideas from local homeless people through community meals. Hosted a foraging walk, and gave dictaphones to local artists to collect stories of their own from their friends and family. The stories have been collated into a ‘Palace Radio’ with 4 themed channels created by composer and sound designer Lee Affen: https://palacearchive.co.uk/palaceradio/. This was a fantastic and rich two weeks of engagement, discussion, and artistic creation.
At its heart food justice is the right to food. Food that tells of our histories and our traditions.EMILY WESTWELL, ACTIVIST AND CO-CREATOR ON PALACE KITCHEN
Our relationships with food and creating a just food system is a massive part of creating a sustainable society. How we access healthy food, how we grow our food, and what we eat are essential questions to both environmental and social justice. In order to make sustainable change, we need democratic spaces for citizens to discuss these big issues – to hear alternative opinions, to think about how you want the world to be, and to build solidarity. Over these two weeks in Doncaster, The Bare Project sought to create this space in Doncaster through storytelling, playful arts activity, and (crucially) shared meals.
This work culminated in a celebratory event and the grand reveal of a window display The Bare Project and their local collaborators had created. The display told stories of kitchens (from the perspective of a mouse named Zap) – as sites people gather to share food. It also questioned what food justice might look like, and offered some signposting for those facing food insecurity of different types.
“Thank you for the display in Doncaster. I’ve only just got in to Doncaster centre, and the story of Zap made me cry. Good luck with the People’s Palace of Possibilities.”
An email from a passer-by