It may appear odd at first glance should anyone stumble across this article on the web pages of Pavilion Dance South West, as to why it is there at all. There is the obvious link of ‘slow’ and ‘movement’ as if this were part of a choreography direction but that is as best tenuous. However, the example that the Slow Movement have set in an operational sense has a legitimacy across any sector, particularly one that is essentially a network of regional posts working to a common set of goals and especially a creative industry such as dance. Where Slow Food lead, dance can surely follow.
Slow Food was originated by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in the 1980s. They were ‘activists’ because they were fighting the demise of traditional food culture in their home country of Italy. Initially created after a demonstration on the intended site of a McDonald’s at the Spanish Steps in Rome and now is a Global network involving millions of passionate people in over 160 countries who are working to ensure everyone has access to good, clean and fair food.
The focus of the movement is to work at a grassroots level to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions, counteract the rise of fast life and combat people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from and how our food choices affect the world around us. It has a set of principles or beliefs that start with a single idea and yet is resonant and tied to many other aspects of life. Through educating people on the food choices they make, they can collectively influence how food is cultivated, produced and distributed, and change the world as a result.
The Slow Food Movement has a philosophy that envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. Slow Food’s approach is based on a concept of food that is defined by three interconnected principles: good, clean and fair.
- GOOD: quality, flavoursome and healthy food
- CLEAN: production that does not harm the environment
- FAIR: accessible prices for consumers and fair conditions and pay for producers
In essence, over two decades of history, the movement has evolved to embrace a comprehensive approach to food that recognizes the strong relationships and connections between plate, planet, people, culture, politics, commerce, agriculture and the environment.
Slow Food are ambitious communicators and enablers who’s operate to protect food biodiversity by building links between producers and consumers, as well as raise awareness of some of the most pressing topics affecting our food system.
These initiatives range from
- saving endangered foods and defending gastronomic traditions
- teaching and celebrating the pleasure of food and how to make good, clean and fair choices through food
- taste education based on the reawakening and training of the senses
- the study of all aspects of food and its production.
This is the ambitious challenge that Slow Food has set for itself.
So how can the dance sector replicate any of this? Firstly, despite the success of Slow Food and its good intentions, clearly there is a mountain to climb. There are some considerable wins but still sustainability, obesity, food banks and food waste are rife around the world. On a more local level, every High Street in Britain looks homogenous with the same big brands and the independent food retailers are suffocating. It is a success story but one that still has far to go and by no means across the finishing line. However, this challenge should evoke a sense of optimism for other organisations wanting to change or challenge.
The obvious transferable pattern is that dance is created locally or regionally by artists. The artist is a producer of art that is promoted or sold by a body or theatre which is in turn ‘consumed’ by the public. The trajectory is very similar albeit symbolic, however the trick is to identify where the problems are in dance and work to rectify them with a set of principles that empower the chain. The slight difference being in the consumer position because in food the conscious consumer has a power to support the right system. I’m not sure that is true in the dance sector unless there is a clear industry message to educate the audience to support the right production. Should the emphasis be on independent arts funded projects as opposed to Strictly Come Dancing? It’s my view that the focus should be on promoting the diversity of dance and how that connects positively to a much bigger picture. An idea where dance in general is the subject but emphasise how it connects and benefits on a wider scale. A network that covers art, commerce, health, entertainment, inclusivity, tradition, culture and craft.
Perhaps this year’s annual South West Dance Gathering is the place to see what that network looks like and how it can snake a conga through the issues it is currently facing such as recognising provenance, creating a market and then stimulating the market that values local or regional provenance. How to do something more deeply by doing less of the same. Championing independence by highlighting the links and building new connections. Creative thought in a creative environment.
A step ball change opportunity.
Author, teacher, presenter, consultant
Steven Lamb is a linchpin of the whole River Cottage operation and has been for more than a decade. He teaches on several courses at the Cookery School but specialises in curing and smoking meat. He wrote the best-selling River Cottage Curing & Smoking Handbook which received the Fortnum & Masons Highly Commended Food Book award. Since then he has contributed to the definitive A-Z of Ingredients and has just completed the next River Cottage Handbook, Cheese & Dairy which is due out in Spring 2018 . He works closely with founder Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to represent River Cottage both in the UK and abroad.
Beyond River Cottage, Steven’s extensive food knowledge and talent for live hosting has put him at the centre of many of the best food shows and festivals, either leading his own cookery demonstration or compering the live stage for emerging and celebrity chefs. Always keen to share his knowledge, Steven regularly teaches at other UK and International cookery schools, and also uses his experience to consult on food projects for individuals and large organisations. He writes on an array of subjects for print and online.