URBANE: Exploring Our Urban Relationship to Food

19th-25th February 2015

Tent Gallery

photo 1

With 66% of the world’s population expected to be living in urban areas by 2050, now is the time to ask- how will we sustain these populations within the competing uses of city space? Have city dwellers lost all sense of connection with the rural, and in doing so, alienated themselves from the production of the very sustenance that keeps them alive?

URBANE is part of Edible Cities Edinburgh, a larger event that investigates food within the past, present and future context of Edinburgh.

View the digital exhibition catalogue here.

Exhibiting artists:

A Growing Exchange Alex Wilde, Annechien Meier, Gert-Jan Gerlach


A Growing Exchange film

Still from the film

A documentary film showing the influence of political, social and spatial development of urban agriculture in The Hague and Glasgow and explores the consequences and effects on both cities and their inhabitants.

Fiscal Flora: A Botanical Walking Tour of Edinburgh’s Financial District Daisy Lafarge

Audio tour

Fiscal Flora is an audio work exploring how the use of natural and holistic language and aesthetics are used in the corporate sphere to manipulate and enhance public relations. (Download available via BandCamp)

Dairy House Open Jar Collective

Public art project

A pop-up milk bar was built for the Environmental Art Festival Scotland to create a space for rumination and conversation with the public about milk and the dairy industry.

Culture Soup Sam Cook, Emily Parry, Sofia Sefraoui

Up-cycled portable food trolley

Using local and sustainable foods we are producing soup for the exhibition. The (free) soup will be situated outside the gallery space, although will serve to bring viewers in to the gallery.

Orchard City poster series (4 of 8) Jonathan Baxter and Sarah Gittins

A2 silkscreen posters

Since 2013, Dundee Urban Orchard have been working with individuals and community groups to plant and care for small scale orchards across Dundee. The posters celebrate the people and values that sustain the project.

Fruits (from: Fruits Series) Shannon McBride

Wax, pigments, faux hair, shellac, grocery container

“Fruits” allude to human interaction with nature, suggesting food politics, GMO’s and chemical agriculture. The series addresses the “artificialization” of nature, and the fine line between natural and artificial.

Raw,Cooked, Rotten Zoe Polycarpou

Bread, tin, wood

Viewers are invited to get involved in a loaf of bread’s transformation through the stages of food discussed in Claude Levi-Strauss’ ‘Culinary Triangle’: from ‘raw’ to ‘cooked’ to the inevitably ‘rotten’.

Natural Fibers Coral Mallow

Foraged candy and food wrappers, polyester thread

This is not an exercise in upcycling.

This is a reassessment of what is natural.

This is looking at the reality of our present normal.

This is what constitutes a natural harvest.

Orchard City Manifesto Anne-Marie Culhane, Fruit Routes Map Anne-Marie Culhane and The Abundance Handbook Anne-Marie Culhane & Stephen Watts featuring illustrations by Monika Mitkute & Jo Salter

The Orchard City Manifesto is based on the experience of creating the Abundance urban fruit harvesting project in Sheffield, the manifesto proposes the adoption of an Orchard City vision as a meta-narrative for future urban development.

Fruit Routes Map is a map & guide to foraging and new trees planted at Loughborough University as part of a trans-disciplinary project to develop an edible campus and a local food culture involving staff, students and the local community.

The Abundance Handbook is available in printed format or as free download from http://www.growsheffield.com

A guide to community urban fruit harvesting.

Seeds Away Ollla at Work

Postcards, seeds

Seeds Away was a participatory project developed in the neighborhood and with the community of La Nizanerie, in the city of Nantes, France.

Frame #2 Marion Preez, UrbanPioneers l Stadtpioniere

Participatory public art intervention

Workshop and art installation which takes the question ‘How can we sustain ourselves within our city spaces?’ from the gallery space onto the streets of Edinburgh. As part of this workshop 18 participants explored the city centre, investigating where and how food growing could take place by installing 21 picture frames.

URBANE was curated by The Dinner Lab and sponsored by Pickering’s Gin.

Edible Cities Edinburgh

Collecting thoughts from the Edible Cities Edinburgh Workshop and Seminar Series

As part of the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning Week in February 2015, The Dinner Lab hosted the Edible Cities Edinburgh workshop series. Across two days, participants collaborated and challenged the notions of food within the past, present and future of Edinburgh. The following are notes, reflections, resources and ideas discussed during the workshop events. Feel free to get in touch (thedinnerlab (at) gmail.com) with any further questions, or if you would like to be involved with some of the follow up projects (listed below)!

Day One: 17th February 2015

On Day One of Edible Cities Edinburgh, we discussed some of the history of food in the city, comparing this to the present-day context. Marianne Paget from the City of Edinburgh Council started the day by introducing the Edible Edinburgh Sustainable Food City Plan (available to view or download from the Edible Edinburgh website).

The Sustainable Food City Plan works towards the following vision: “Edinburgh is a city where good food is available for all, making for healthy people, thriving communities and a sustainable environment.” The plan outlines aims and objectives under the following themes: Health and wellbeing, Land use, Environment, Buying food, Economy and Cultural change.

The Edible Edinburgh Sustainable Food City Plan manifested itself in the “Feeding the 5,000” event that took place in Edinburgh on 5th October 2013. Utilising the expertise of some of Edinburgh’s finest chefs, as well as the dedication of a team of volunteers, food that would have otherwise gone to waste was gathered and transformed into 4950 lunches.

After hearing from Marianne, we delved into discussion by looking at some historic maps and used these as the basis for mapping the present (and possibilities for the future) food system of Edinburgh. Many of the historic maps used for inspiration for this activity were from the thesis of Oliver Cooper, titled Built on Food: An Archaeology of Edinburgh’s ‘Intestines’.

We also looked at some examples of maps that show information beyond street names and locations. These maps and mapping techniques are located in our Research/Resources section.

Some ideas produced during the workshops for maps showing elements and components of Edinburgh’s food system include:

  • Mapping all available space for growing- greenspace, brownfields, verges, roundabouts, etc.
  • Intergenerational food storage map
  • Food-sharing (waste/excess food) opportunities
  • Mapping local food outlets (retail and markets)
  • Mapping local community gardens/groups (Grow Stronger/Transition Edinburgh South is hosting an upcoming event to implement this idea! Mapping Community Food and Growing will take place 16th March 2015. Event details/registration available via Eventbrite)
  • Map of foraging sites
  • Mapping ‘local’ food restaurants, cafes
  • Outlets classified by food sources (eg green = local, orange=part local, red=no consideration given)
  • Independent suppliers (and markets) vs. large chains
  • Existing growing spaces (allotments, community gardens, private) and potential growing spaces
  • Home deliveries- supermarkets, independent, organic producers
  • Outlets (markets, independents, supermarkets, cafes/restaurants)
  • Digital map with classifications (expandable for detail)

Our workshop groups also got a head-start on creating the following maps:

  • Sustainability concept map
  • Plan for 2050
  • Transport map v. outlets
  • Supermarkets, Agricultural opportunities and farmers markets locations in Edinburgh

In the afternoon of Day One, Kirsty Sutherland from the Friends of the Granton Castle Walled Garden joined us to present some of the complexities and the historic significance of this site. A medieval-style walled garden with origins dating back over 450 years, the Granton Castle Walled Garden is threatened by development pressures in the local area. Remains of a heritage orchard and the rich documentation of the site’s history are just a couple of the traits that make this site a high-priority for cultural preservation.

While this site is sure to elicit much curiously, Kirsty requested that those who are interested please refrain from visiting the site as access impedes the privacy of the owners of the adjacent property.

To join in the campaign to save Granton Castle Walled Garden and to learn more, please visit the Friends of the Granton Castle Walled Garden WordPress and Facebook pages.

Our final session on Day One was the Fiscal Flora audio tour. This tour is self-directed and still available for download via Bandcamp, if you missed out! Fiscal Flora presents a botanical walking tour of Edinburgh’s financial district: a journey that will open your eyes, heart and mind to the rich plant-life of our corporate spirit…

Day Two: 18th February 2015

On Day Two of Edible Cities Edinburgh, we shifted our focus to a present and future focus. The day commenced with Jane Brennan from Edinburgh Garden Partners introducing the EGP initiative. Edinburgh Garden Partners is a charity that facilitates garden sharing in Edinburgh by matching volunteers who would like to garden with those who can provide the space to garden. Jane also discussed some of the challenges that the organisation faces, in particular how to facilitate positive relationships between gardeners and garden owners.

One particular challenge that EGP faces is the unequal distribution of volunteer gardeners and volunteer garden owners in the city. During this workshop, we mapped these distributions to better visualise possible contributions to EGP.

This mapping technique could be applied to many issues that our contemporary food system faces, such as abundance of food (that often goes to waste!) in some areas of the city.

For our next workshop session, we were joined by Tim Foster, a volunteer who has used OpenStreetMap (OSM) for many food-related projects. OpenStreetMap is a user-built map that emphasises local knowledge as a basis for building. Tim introduced the basics of editing OpenStreetMap to us, before opening up to some work time to look for growing projects in Edinburgh or add those that weren’t already included on the map.

Some of the resources and projects Tim introduced that used OSM or similar technologies were-

Farming Concrete: an open, community-based research project started by gardeners to measure how much food is grown in New York City’s community gardens and school gardens

Locate+Cultivate, Duddingston Greenspace Survey: A survey of local spaces identified using OSM for potential growing uses

Eating In Eating Out, Streetland Festival: a project by artists Clem Sandison and Alex Wilde (with assistance from Tim Foster) mapping food outlets in Govanhill as part of the Streetland Festival

If you are interested in learning more about OpenStreetMap, a group of interested mappers meets the third Tuesday of each month. More information about these meet-ups and the OSM Scotland community is available on the OSM Scotland Wiki page.

A question board is also available to post any OpenStreetMap questions- https://help.openstreetmap.org/

In the afternoon of Day Two, we were joined by Tom Kirby of Granton Community Gardeners. Tom delivered an inspiring talk about the humble beginnings of the Granton Community Gardeners, which has grown to be a project that has invigorated an entire local community. Tom discussed the importance of collaboration and culture to this project- the garden has become a much larger metaphor for myriad social events held within the community. The memories created within the garden have truly redefined what used to be vacant corner lots in the Granton area. The abundant harvests are proof that a simple idea can become a beautiful and successful community effort!

To put Tom’s inspiring provocations into action, Marion Preez (UrbanPioneers) led the closing workshop for Day Two. Marion split the group into smaller teams, and each team was given a portion of the Edinburgh city centre in which they were to “frame” places where food growing could occur. These frames were then installed in the public spaces as a public art intervention. The location of the frames and the ideas for this locations were gathered in a larger map, which was displayed in Tent Gallery through the week following the workshops. The documentation of this project (Frame #2) can be found on the UrbanPioneers website.

Food Sharers Unite! also made an appearance at the Edible Cities Edinburgh workshops. This initiative aims to connect people digitally by reducing the amount of food waste in Edinburgh. Functioning mainly from the Facebook group, the procedure is simple- members of the group can post if they have too much food (much of the food collected from local shops at the end of the day), and other members of the group will get in touch if they would like to collect the advertised food. The group is open to all who are looking to support the Food Sharing cause.

Calls to Action

Edible Cities Edinburgh proved to be valuable in connecting people from many of the significant projects happening across the city. Maps could provide another platform for the exchange of knowledge and enhancing the interconnectivity of these projects.

The Dinner Lab will be developing a project here at ECA that will be creating maps as a community resource. This will complement much of the work of existing initiatives, in particular looking at the role of the university within the local growing community. A new growing site has been identified and will become a permaculture hub within ECA. We need gardeners, activists and mapmakers to join the project! To become part of the team or for more information, please contact Allison at thedinnerlab (at) gmail.com. This plan is in preliminary stages (some further details to be disclosed to those who show interest) so now is a good time to get in touch if you’d like to share your vision!

All ideas for maps produced during Edible Cities Edinburgh are open-source- if you’d like to use one of the ideas, please get in touch and we will facilitate further progress!

Upcoming events

10989198_738908812896166_4827763549348537786_oGermination, Edinburgh’s Community Garden Skillshare Saturday 21st March 2015, 1pm-5pm at the Drylaw Neighbourhood Centre

Mapping Community Food and Growing, hosted by Grow Stronger/Transition Edinburgh South Monday 16 March 2015 from 10:00 to 15:00 at the Gracemount Mansion House Grow Stronger is inviting Community Garden and Food workers from across Edinburgh for a day of networking and workshops, helping us all to forge sustainable and lasting links with each other and map our wider communities.

Power of Food Festival

20-21 June 2015

We’re creating Edinburgh’s first festival of community food growing. Acting for social change and environmental sustainability.


Images from Edible Cities Edinburgh

Artist Talk announced for URBANE programme- “Orchard as metaphor: concerning socially engaged art and sustainability”

Join us for an artist talk at the Tent Gallery, as part of the URBANE interdisciplinary exhibition and Edible Cities Edinburgh events series.

Jonathan Baxter will introduce the work of DUO (Dundee Urban Orchard), a city-wide art and horticulture project established in 2013. Through the metaphor of an orchard Jonathan will explore key themes within socially engaged art including the tension between participation and provocation, the relationship between symbolic and actual practice, and the different evaluative criteria for what constitutes success.

The talk will be informative, informal and participatory.

This event is free and open to all, but please reserve a ticket via Eventbrite.


Artist biography: Jonathan Baxter is an artist and … He works across disciplines – both art and non-art related – uses psychoanalytic methodologies and performative practices to variously open up, challenge and propose … what is. Jonathan has a prior commitment to social, environmental and economic justice. He is currently undertaking research entitled, Performing the Broken Middle: Socially Engaged Art and Its Shadow.  

Heritage- Corn and Culture

Heritage was created as an installation as part of the Story group exhibition at Tent Gallery. The piece provokes consideration of the effects of monoculture on indigenous cultures of Latin America, particularly addressing the loss of heirloom/heritage corn species that are being considered increasingly less favourable to grow due to the demand for white corn. These ancient heirloom corn species hold significance to the myriad niche cultures of Latin America- but the looming threat of economic competition on the global food market forces many traditional farmers to sacrifice growing these socially significant crops for those that will be more profitable.

Registration now open- Edible Cities Edinburgh workshop series

Edible Cities Edinburgh: A Food-Based Approach to Knowledge Exchange

17-19 February 2015 at the Tent Gallery, Edinburgh

As part of the University of Edinburgh’s Innovative Learning Week, The Dinner Lab will be hosting the Edible Cities Edinburgh workshop and walking tour series. These two days will envision a new future for Scottish food and sustainability, through walking tours, guided tastings, creative mapping and interdisciplinary collaboration. The work produced and documentation of the event will be included in an interdisciplinary exhibition in the Tent Gallery! (A great way to have your voice heard!)

This inclusive event will bring together university students, researchers and community members in a productive and creative context to discuss Edinburgh’s food culture and the potential for the city’s food system. Ideas from the event will act as a catalyst for future collaboration between the many local food projects across the city.

Join us to eat our way to a more sustainable future for Edinburgh! Free and open to all-registration has officially opened! Book a place today to join this event. Come along to share your knowledge of the past or present and your vision for the future, exchange ideas with other food-interested folk and see where the thoughts shared may lead.

For more information and to book, please visit our Eventbrite page.

Save the Date: Edible Cities Edinburgh collaborative workshop series

Join us in eating our way to a more sustainable future for Edinburgh!
Two days of workshops will envision a new future for Scottish food and sustainability through walking tours, guided tastings, creative mapping and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Registration and programme information to be announced shortly.


Eating Edinburgh Map- Old Town

The following map overlays the historical food-related sites of the Edinburgh city centre with contemporary projects and vendors. Using these maps, we can look to the past to examine and re-imagine the food system of the city centre.

To download the Old Town Food Map, please click here.


Open Call for Submissions: Urbane Interdisciplinary Exhibition


Open call for entries of all disciplines for Urbane– an interdisciplinary exhibition addressing our urban relationship to food.
​​“But cities are not just made of bricks and mortar, they are inhabited by flesh-and-blood humans, and so must rely on the natural world to feed them. Cities, like people, are what they eat.” 
-Carolyn Steel, from Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives, 2008
With 66% of the world’s population expected to be living in urban areas by 2050, now is the time to ask- how will we sustain these populations within the competing uses of city space? Have city dwellers lost all sense of connection with the rural, and in doing so, alienated themselves from the production of the very sustenance that keeps them alive?
Urbane, a cross-disciplinary exhibition, aims to address these questions and provoke further consideration of these issues. Embracing discourse around the growing energy and attention being drawn towards local growing initiatives and food projects, the exhibition will act as a platform for the exchange of knowledge between artists, architects, scientists, writers, policy-makers and community groups to address the need to more fully embed our food system within our everyday urban lives.
Urbane will run 19-24 February 2015, with talks, workshops and performances activating the gallery space to create a forum to better understand the unique attributes and possibilities existing within Scotland’s urban and social environments for a more sustainable and equitable future.
Submission Guidelines: Works of all mediums will be considered for the exhibition, with a preference for interdisciplinary collaborative works. Works will be selected for their cohesion and ability to sit within a group show in the Tent Gallery, a street-front project space located in the Art, Space + Nature studio, a space where direct dialogue between the University and the public can take place. The dimensions of the gallery are roughly 6m x 6.5m x 2.5 m in height, so works must sit well within this scale of space.
Please send a digital copy or photos of your work along with an artist statement and description/interpretation of work to Allison Palenske at thedinnerlab@gmail.com by 19th January 2015 at 5pm. Email attachment sizes must not exceed 5MB, please provide links to a Dropbox file location for larger files.
Only works that have already been created will be considered, unfortunately we cannot accept proposals for new work at this time. Preference will be given to artists proposing a performance, talk or workshop surrounding their work. Applicants will be informed of curators’ decisions by 26 January 2015.
By entering, the artist confirms that if successful, they will deliver finished exhibition quality pieces to Tent Gallery, Evolution House, Edinburgh College of Art no later than 15 February 2015. Artists must be able to pick up their works following the end of the exhibition, or provide return postage, no later than 1 March 2015. Whilst due care and attention will be given throughout, artists should note that the artworks will be sent, exhibited and returned entirely at the owners risk. Artists are liable to make their own insurance cover, if required. Works should be sent suitably packaged and will be returned in the original packaging.  Artists whose work is of a fragile nature should discuss this with the organiser before sending the works. Any further questions can be sent via email to Allison at thedinnerlab@gmail.com.

Eating Edinburgh Mapping Project at the Grassmarket

Some photos from our project at the Grassmarket Weekly Market this past Saturday- stay tuned for more news regarding what we’re doing with all the lovely memories we collected!

Eating Edinburgh Mapping Project

Join us tomorrow in the Grassmarket to share your favourite food memories in the Edinburgh city centre! We’d like to hear about Edinburgh’s tastiest places to purchase, eat, share or grow food.

If you’d like to participate, come by the Grassmarket Weekly Market tomorrow (13 December 10am-5pm), or submit your location to us online via email, Twitter or Instagram. More details included below-