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24-hour Bake-a-thon
2010.09.04 / Mikołaj Hęciak
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Earlier this year I took part in a 24-hour Bake-a-thon project where a team baked, decorated and sold cakes for 24 hours in a sponsored event raising money for ‘Phakama UK’ and arts charity working with disadvantaged young people. Today I am talking about it with Corinne Micallef, a theatre director and Phakama facilitator.

I really appreciate that you found a spare hour for our interview, you are very busy single mother. Let’s start from beginning. Could you introduce yourself and Phakama UK’?
– I am a theatre director and have been working with ‘Phakama’ for seven years. ‘Phakama’ started in 1996 in South Africa as an initiative of LIFT, the London International Festival of Theatre. At the time there was very little cultural exchange happening between the UK and SA but LIFT took artists and young people to SA and worked in Cape Town with their counterparts there. It started as a project about finding ways of collaborating with equality between artists and young people and teachers. It was only meant to be a one-off project, but everyone was so excited by finding a new way of making performance that the team wanted to continue the work.

What does ‘Phakama’ actually mean?
– It means ‘to lift, elevate and empower’ in the South African language Xhosa. People from SA stayed there and continued the work. Those who come back to UK created a ‘Phakama’ here in England.

Corinne, what is Phakama’s philosophy?
– The principle underlying our approach is that everyone entering a project has something to give and everyone has something to gain. There is equality between all of us whether we are teachers or young people, novices or experts, everyone has something to contribute and to learn from the others. So in a project we think what we need to make the project happen. So, for example, I can give my knowledge of theatre and gain from you how to make cakes. Or other thing, you know, like normally skills in singing, music, dance, art, writing, stage management, pyrotechnic fire works and maybe administrative skills or pastoral as well. All these things like we need to make a performance happen.

In one word it is equality.
– Equality and a democratic way of working. What we make together is based on people’s experience really. Our starting point is who we have in the room and also the content of the work we make is based on real stories that come from the group. So there is not a play script whatsoever, all the performances come from people’s stories.

But you need some supervisors, someone in charge. How you manage this matter?
– Normally there is no one director voice, it is like several.

Let’s talk about food.
– Yes, there is something really important to ‘Phakama’ – food. Particularly the act of eating together and cooking together and social time. This is very important in our projects. When people come together. It’s not always about the work, is quite often during a break or lunch break or after. That’s when people really get to talk to each other and get to know one another. So, something we used to do in our workshops is lunch hour. 2-3 people every week would go and cook something and then serve lunch for everybody. Usually we have a big lunch with people cooking food from different places in the world, so like we have somebody from Togo they would to cook something African food. Then next week someone from Ivory Coast or Brazil or Europe or the Caribbean so, you know, food specific to where they come from. Then we will sit down, like a proper sit down lunch and eat and talk just really to know each other. So in that way Phakama has acted a lot like a family to the young people.

Particularly when they have no family.
– Yes, and this is really important. Which is why whatever project we do – somehow we find a way to link it to food.

There was a project called ‘Eat London’.
– I wasn’t directly involved in that work. It was project from LIFT and Phakama was one of 12 community groups involved. Basically the map of London was divided into 12 squares and each community group got a section and had to turn a piece of map into a 3D sculpture made of food.

When I saw this project on Youtube I was speechless.
– It was incredible. On the day of the event all the communities groups came together to Trafalgar Square and put together pieces of the map and then the audience came to eat our map. People were literally eating the city. It was really lovely. Food is such an important and emotive thing that can unite everyone. Which is why we thought that the ‘Bake-a-thon’ was such a good idea!!!

And it was your idea.
– It was my idea. What happen was ‘Phakama’ went to Indonesia in February and we did a fantastic project there with a local theatre company. When we came back to London we wanted to bring the Indonesian company here. We had to raise 35,000 pounds. We sat down to discuss how we can raise the money to make our dream happen. We came up with different ideas including gala night and bake-a-thon.

Making cakes for 24 hours is really a challenge for amateurs.
– Yes, and I felt that if this would happened we should do something spectacular, because cooking for 6 hours is not a big deal so it had to be 24 hours. My dad is a baker and I thought he might help us.

Everyone likes cakes.
– We discovered that the day we sold them. Cakes make people happy. We managed to sell nearly 1000 cakes and people were happy to buy them.

How did the decoration go?
– We had a big team of people, but unfortunately there was so much to do and set up and some of people which came to help to decorate cakes could only come around 1 pm…

And your event started before midday?
C: Yeah, at 10am. What happened was we had enough to start us off and after, basically we kept decorating them whole day, nearly to the last hour. So the cakes were freshly decorated to order!

Have you managed to raise enough money?
– We have raised over £20,000 and are still fundraising for the final bit of money. The Indonesian company will be coming to the UK in Spring 2011 and we will perform our new play together The World At My Feet in East London.

And recently ‘Phakama’ moved to new headquarters in East London.
– That’s right. We moved the office to Mile End and are now a resident company in the Drama Department of Queen Mary University.

Congratulations. I wish you many new successful projects.



One of cakes we baked for Phakama during Bake-a-thon were traditional, very popular in the UK butterfly cup cakes. Following recipe I took from Good Food Magazine.
To make about 12 of them we need: 140 g self-raising flour, ½ tsp baking powder, 85 g butter, at room temperature, 85 g golden caster sugar, 50 g lemon curd, 2 large eggs, 100 g blueberries. And for decoration we need: 175 g lite mascarpone, 50 g lemon curd, 100g bluberries, and icing sugar for dusting.
Line the tin and weigh the ingredients: Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and put a paper case in each space in the fairy cake tin. Next, take the large mixing bowl and weigh in the flour, baking powder, butter, sugar and lemon curd. Add the eggs: Break the eggs into the small bowl, then add them to the other ingredients, making sure that there isn't any eggshell in the bowl. Get whisking. Whisk everything together really well until creamy with the electric hand whisk. Then carefully stir in the blueberries with a metal spoon or spatula.
Spoon into the cases: Use the ice cream scoop or spoon to spoon the mixture evenly into the paper cases. Make sure you get the mixture inside the cases. Now put the cake tin in the oven and bake for 15 mins until the cakes are golden (to check they are ready, see the tip box, left). Cool for a few mins, then lift the cakes onto a cooling rack.
Make the topping: Clean the large mixing bowl and dry well. Then put the mascarpone and lemon curd into the bowl and beat together with a wooden spoon until well mixed.
Now decorate: Carefully cut a circle out of the top of each cake - ask an adult to help you. Lift off the circle and fill the space with the lemon filling followed by some blueberries. Halve the circle of the cake that you have cut out and place on top to create butterfly wings. Put some icing sugar in a tea strainer and dust over the cakes. Enjoy!!!

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