Set Menu with Ibiye Camp is the second installment of Common Ground 2016–17.
Common Ground is Milton Keynes Arts Centre’s community participation and artist development programme supported using public funding by Arts Council England. Offering a twelve-month season of distinct projects, each presenting high quality and meaningful opportunities for engagement between a diverse spectrum of artists and communities living in Milton Keynes.
I was first introduced to Milton Keynes Arts Centre by my friend Tom Eke, Tom and I studied together at Central St Martins and have remained in close contact. Tom asked me to deliver a workshop at the Arts Centre as part of the Power Plant project in 2015 and invited me back to lead on a strand of Common Ground. Before planning my strand, Tom gave me a tour of Milton Keynes. While walking around the city I was struck by how the layout appeared to encourage social interaction and was accessible to its users. The short walking distance between the leisure centre, cinema, bingo hall and shopping centre highlighted to me that Milton Keynes had been designed to make everything easily accessible, convenient and hassle free. The master planning for the city had included various commuter routes such as the very slickly designed Red Way cycle paths. Walkways and underpasses for pedestrians displayed an idealistic modern layout for Milton Keynes. The grid pattern and roundabouts and terraced housing emphasised a simple design structure. We had a wander around the shopping centre where I was pleasantly surprised by its tropical region of palm trees. In contrast to the multiple magnolia tiles and concrete it gave Milton Keynes a flavour of California.
On the tour of Milton Keynes we saw a sign outside a restaurant which said Set Menu. It was ironic to see these words, as my impression of the city’s architecture was that it was like a set city. Set Menu’s were created to make an exemplary meal where you are given broad ranging and atypical food for a set price which constitutes an entrée, a main course and then a choice between a cheese or a dessert course. Fast food restaurants tend to offer a non-changing menu so customers can order their regular meal choice and be in and out quickly. Whereas a supper club set menu is changed often by the season and tends to be rather experimental and unfamiliar to the average customers palette. The grid design of Milton Keynes reminded me of a combination plate. This is a type of serving dish or platter that is designed with separate compartments for foods to be placed in. Although it seems rather abstract to relate architecture to a food menu I thought that this could be a fun conceptual route for our participants to explore in stand of Common Ground.
I invited artists Shepherd Manyika, Kay Davis, Safia El Dabi and Alex Brenchley to join me in creating a series of eclectic multi-media workshops that involved participation and making. Set Menu provided a choice of activities so that the participants can take their pick, like a menu. Along with the workshops, the artists have designed instructions which demonstrate how the workshops would transpire. We had a wide choice for our audiences to choose from; varying from creating public seating, self-portraiture, pompom earrings, collages, print making and loads more.
Ibiye Camp, 2016