An Invitation To Tea, curated and produced by Rajni Shah in collaboration with Saj Fareed and Tracey Low, was a one day Arts Council England, South East conference which placed at its heart what most people consider as ‘down time’ – the food and drink. Led by six artists and using tea as a metaphor and starting point for looking at cultural diversity, An Invitation To Tea endeavoured to be an original, engaging and individualistic forum for discussion and debate.
Working alongside Rajni, Saj and Tracey, six artists were commissioned to take the idea of conversation, eating and drinking as a starting point to develop new pieces of work that would also function as sessions for the conference. A brief outline of the final conference structure follows:
Session Zero 'tea and scones?'
Qasim Riza Shaheen, Silke Mansholt and dreadlockalien served tea, exploring and exploiting stereotypical images of Englishness
Session One 'introduction to talking'
Introduction from Daniel Bernstein, diversity officer for Arts Council England, then Rajni Shah gave a brief opening address – download this below
Session Two 'talking'
Three breakout sessions, led by Silke Mansholt with Monika Richards (Custard Creams), Gavin Stride with dreadlockalien (Digestives), and by Qasim Riza Shaheen with Catherine Lucktaylor (Bourbons)
Session Three 'lunch'
Yara El Sherbini hosted an English Pub Quiz
Compromising Authenticity: Lucy Panesar guided delegates through an ‘authentic’ experience at a Sikh Langar
Ansuman Biswas hosted a sumptuous feast exploring themes of conversing and eating together
Session Four 'consensus'
Everyone rejoined for the final session to hear back from breakout sessions and open up a larger discussion
Session Five 'tea, reprise'
Delegates were given the chance to feed back on the conference- the serving of tea acted as a reflection of the beginning of the day