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The Commons Feast

Heritage Open Days 2021

This September, Reading’s heritage will be on show for 10 days as part of England’s annual heritage festival, Heritage Open Days. Celebrating our buildings, natural and cultural heritage, this year there will be a fantastic range of free in-person and digital events to showcase the rich stories that make Reading such a unique place to live, work and visit.

See all Heritage Open Days 2021 events


‘The Commons Feast’ is a gathering focussed on the sharing of ideas around local, seasonal, wild, and foraged fare.

This event is the first in-person occasion to showcase The Commons: Re-Enchanting the World taking place at The MERL from April 2021 to January 2022, with installations and interventions in the MERL galleries and gardens by Catherine Morland, Amanda Couch, Sigrid Holmwood, Kelechi Anucha and Carl Gent and Sam Wallman

At the heart of the day is the Commons Feast, a gathering focussed on the sharing of ideas around local, seasonal, wild, and foraged fare. At the table we will provide bread made locally by Rise Bakehouse incorporating Levande Arkivet (Josefin Vargo’s collection of over 80 sourdough cultures gifted by bakers around the world). The bread will be presented in a collection of bread baskets made especially by members of the basket makers association and other practitioners. Catherine Morland will collaborate with Sara Trillo to make a display for the table using foraged clay and flowers grown in the MERL gardens, and the project designer, Kristin Fraser’s graphics will also form part of the table dressing. Beverages will be provided by Company Drinks (a community drinks production enterprise that links to the history of ‘going picking’.

This feast will serve as a chance to consider how we nourish ourselves, our families, our communities, and our environment. We hope to awaken food memories and encourage our guests to share food stories. In doing so we hope to ask questions of our food systems and consider how we can all bring the idea of the ‘commons’ to life in our mealtimes.

The event will also include workshops, demonstrations and family activities including:

  1. Carl Gent will play a mixtape of folk songs which influenced their and Kelechi Anucha’s sonic sculptures. They will explain the origins of each song and how the narratives relate to the wider theme of The Commons.
  2. Sigrid Holmwood in her peasant-painter persona will demonstrate how to make turquoise pigment from woad grown in the MERL gardens and a process inspired by the Mayan technology for making Maya Blue.
  3. Catherine Morland will demonstrate how to make cordage using the materials used in her installations including natural plant fibres and recycled plastic bags. Participants can learn how to make a piece of handmade string. She will also facilitate a seed swap.
  4. Featuring The Mills Archive, Rise Bakehouse and the ‘Becoming with Wheat Companions’ of volunteer gardeners, Amanda Couch will present a series of everyday performances to process the wheat that has been cultivated in The MERL garden, focusing on dehulling, threshing, winnowing, milling, and caring for, and baking with a sourdough starter.

We are inviting you to bring:

  • Locally-sourced or homemade foods to show and talk about on the day.
  • A picnic for yourselves to eat with the Commons Feast sour dough.
  • Recipes to swap and share (With your permission we will then copy and share these texts on the day)
  • Seeds to share and swap.

Free to attend but booking essential.