Common Ground - recipe book project

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This project came about through a partnership between the Bedworth Indian Social Welfare Association (BISWA Centre) and the Museum and Art Gallery Nuneaton. The relationship originally came about when the museum approached the centre to see if members would like to take part in an exhibition about Asian fashions organised by Warwickshire Museums Services.

The BISWA centre then went back to the museum, wanting to work with it again, and together they decided to form community based exhibition about local allotment holders. As part of this project, women from the BISWA centre produced a recipe book, since they often use fresh produce in their cooking grown by many of the men from the centre.

The women were members of an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) class at the BISWA centre and used the recipe book project as a way of improving their literacy skills, by translating recipes into English. With the help of staff from the Museum and Art Gallery, and IT students at the BISWA centre, the women researched, wrote and even cooked some of the recipes during their class. They discussed recipes and cooking while they worked and talked about them in English to the museum worker. She noticed that their speaking skills improved as the project progressed, particularly as they got to know her and felt more confident. As time went on the group seemed to increase in commitment and gained more members because the theme was so popular; some of the women have continued with cookery classes since.

The museum benefited from being able to develop its links with an ethnic minority community, and staff felt that the exhibition gained from the community's input; they aim to pursue these links in future projects. The museum staff did face a language barrier, particularly when conducting oral history interviews with the men about their allotments; however, a worker from the BISWA centre was able to translate, and also the women, since they were attending an ESOL class, were more keen to improve their English.

The book that the women produced was put on display and on sale in the museum, and the group came to see the exhibition and gained a sense of ownership of it. They have since asked for more copies of the book to be produced for sale at other events, and to give to their relatives and friends.


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