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Feasts & Beasts

As we slip past the Autumn Equinox this week and into the shortening days in the transition to the winter months, there's never been a better time of year to take stock..

There’s never been a better time of year to take stock, look for what is good and worthwhile to become the seeds for next year’s harvest.

But this year is unlike any other.

Usually we’d be promoting the idea of harvest festivals and “feasts of fall” and there’s never been a better year for home-grown produce, let’s face it. Those of us who’ve been forced into working from home as a result of Covid-19 rules and regulations, have had an unprecedented opportunity to grow things. Sometimes for the first time, neglected allotments and overgrown garden veggie patches, having been the object of frenzied sowing, pruning, watering, feeding and yes, now it’s our turn.

So, a bit like turkey after Christmas, many of us have had a bash at cooking marrow burgers, marrow curry, marrow Bolognese, stuffed marrow, Pizza marrowoni (I made that one up). And if marrows aren’t bad enough, there’s always pumpkins.

Pumpkins, which seem to be a bit of an American import – just like Halloween Trick or Treating – are ubiquitous. They are also even trickier to grow than your common or garden marrow. Before private gardens, the “commons” were the large patches of grass or woodland that ancient rural villages designated as being for the use of the community as a whole. Gradually, these public spaces were privatised and enclosed. It’s interesting that there is an increasing movement towards nurturing urban common spaces, a trend that we at Kit & Caboodle support with enthusiasm. Although, to be fair, this is not so folk can grow marrows, or even pumpkins, but rather so that they can congregate socially and engage in artistic or entertaining experiences.

We digress. Just as the French might say “retournons a nos moutons” – let’s return to pumpkins. These entertaining interlopers began life around 7,000 years ago in what is now Mexico. They came to Europe in the 16th century and were soon made popular as pie fillings.

Like the humble marrow, the pumpkin is actually a fruit. So sweet pumpkin pie, which is often assumed to be an American Halloween Import, is no new kid on the culinary block.

We discovered all of these fascinating facts when we started to offer autumnal events during October. Our Feast of Fall was well received as a placemaking experience in one of the lesser known public places in the City of London. It is indeed a time for feasting and mellow fruitfulness, mists and bonfires, leading into the strange traditions of All Hallows, or Hallowe’en.

This celebration, on October 31st, is held to mark the evening of the Western Christian Feast of All Hallows the following day. Like many Christianised traditions, it usurps the pagan festival that preceded it, in this case the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain.

For years, we’ve been involved in staging parties, happenings and slightly gory experiences … from baths of blood to Skeleton hip-hop, with a bit of Michael Jackson’s Thriller somewhere in-between. We’ve danced the Monster Mash, carved pumpkins, dished out treats to toddlers and their sweet-toothed parents or carers, and employed wild-eyed costumed entertainers to prowl around urban spaces to say “boo” … or something along those lines.

But in 2020 … the idea of building a cobweb-covered graveyard on the famous Granary Square Steps at King’s Cross … or even programming pumpkin carving workshops for a curated spooky candlelit experience … well, it’s all gone to pot.

And with no festivals, or treats on the horizon … where do we go from here? Lets take the opportunity to cosy up with some classic Halloween movies...

The real monster, the beast of 2020, is this bloody virus, Covid-19.  It kills, it maims, and it destroys the way we have lived until now. No zombie masks required this Hallowe’en, for sure. We’re all masked up as it is. We don’t need to create imaginary frights … the frightful and unimaginable is knocking at the door – it is already here. The piles of coffins we saw in New York are the nightmare that we don’t want to recreate with props.

As for our industry? How can we “take stock” when the future is so unclear. Can we find Government funding to support “viable planning”? What does that even mean? Answers on a postcard please …


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