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Helen Russell Brown - guest blog

Eating Feelings by Helen Russell Brown

Having watched my best friend care for her mother as she suffered from terminal illness, when the time came to honour her memory last summer I did what I know best; I baked a cake. Earl Grey and Lavender cake to remember Steph; to treasure her elegance, warmth, and feminine grace. Cake was requested from all visitors to the wake as a celebration of the sweetest joys in life at a time when all felt lost. Tables heaved with sticky delights dripping in syrup, adorned with flowers and fresh fruit, or glistening with thick chocolate toppings.

It's hard to deny the great deal of sentiment connected to cake and the shared responses it evokes in us; celebration, remembrance, tradition- even gluttony and guilt. Contributing cake to The Crossing launch felt like the beginning of a conversation into allowing celebratory and positive connotations to be part of our grieving rituals.

Using food as a segue to explore emotions and connect to those around us continues to lure me from a background in theatre and performance design towards food design and dining experiences. I first met Ellie creating a display of floating black balloon trifles for her as part of the Live Art Dining Experience (Christie Hill, Live Art Bistro, 2016). As a facilitator and maker working within a variety of creative contexts, I have always been delighted by moments that connect people and bring an element of the unexpected and playful; Ellie's work therefore delights me.

Not having been present for the original performances, it was an honour to be asked to document Grief Series and such a wonderful journey to dissect the sentiment of each piece. Surrounded by endless rooms of Grief belongings we embarked on the sensitive translation from 5 immersive performances to a set of 5 still images. Attempting to capture the visceral feeling and real life moments of Ellie's work required a great deal of detailed curation; a labour of love that was ultimately satisfying. I smile fondly at the memory of two hours spent tweaking jammy dodgers three millimetres to the left and back again.

This stoic dedication to detail reinforces my own perfectionist approach to projects, and the ongoing exploration of sentiment through the lens of grief shows me the importance of considering human connection through negative emotions rather than only celebrating the positive. Whether through edible means or other, to inspire and nurture a genuine dialogue with others is my ultimate prize.

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