Melting Pot: Putting Hyson Green's Food in Focus
7 April 2014
by Bethan Davies
In April 2014, New Art Exchange presents our very first food festival. Spanning two days of the April Bank Holiday weekend, it presents a line-up of delicious culturally varied cuisine, artists' performances and locally sourced food information and support.
Hyson Green's title as most racially diverse area of Nottingham is palpable from not only the array of faces that you encounter walking the streets between The Mary Potter Centre and Adnan's, but from the ever changing and always tempting aromas of food that float from surrounding homes, shops and restaurants. Around the corner from ASDA's self-contained island of shopping trolleys and car park gridlock, independent supermarkets flood the pavements with mouthwatering displays of mangos, banana flowers, okra and more, brightening up the streets and hurriedly covered over with tarpaulin as the rain starts to fall. In between are glimpses of the whole world: a Polish shop whose windows are bursting with posters displaying breads, cured meats, deals and discounts; bustling curry restaurants where the doors swing to and fro late into the night; sweet shops with trays of glistening baklava; and a chrome-lined ice-cream shop whose kitsch displays of mountains of ice cream, wafers, chocolate sauce and sprinkles are a regularly-heard bribe from stressed mums (usually after a traumatic ASDA session.) Walking home from work each day my appetite runs the gamut of evening-meal decisions as the smells of crisp fried chicken, aromatic and spicy home-made curries and slow-roast joints and flaky pastries float between the street lamps.
Statistics have it that Nottingham is the country's poorest city, and the media put crime in every dark corner.* But walking down the street there is no stagnant sense of negativity. Lives continue and communities are reaching out to each other. Across the weekend at Melting Pot, NG7 Foodbank and Himmah, the first Muslim food bank in Hyson Green, will be taking donations from festival goers. Surrounded by delicious food, they are asked to bring donations of non-perishable foods to help struggling families in the area. To date this year 3,855 food parcels have been distributed across the city and 2013 the final figure reached 12,961.** This is a service supporting a very real section of society, so it's time for everyone who can to dig a little deeper.
This sense of a city and a community striving to sustain itself is tackled from another direction by Ecoworks. Taking the 'teach a man to fish' approach for those who have the capacity and time to spend cultivating their own food, Ecoworks will be at NAE sharing their passion for supporting people in connecting with the land. Audiences are invited to learn more about their allotments at St Ann's, an oasis of fertile greenery just a seeds throw from the city centre. With recent scientific studies now pushing us to eat not five but seven portions of vegetables and fruit a day, growing your own adds a real element of satisfaction to all those salads, saags and Sunday's roast potatoes.
If just the idea of working the land to grow your own food gives you an appetite, Melting Pot presents cooks and cuisine from across the world. Spooning a great dollop of Africa into the mix are the Nottingham Women's Cultural Exchange. Taking their culinary talents across the continent, members from Malawi, Algeria, Nigeria and The Gambia will each be preparing local food. Will you be trying the nsima, khabz or nyombeh nyebbeh? Melting Pot aims to prove that if you can survive the Hyson Green crossroads, the area's food can take you in any direction you like.