The 2017 Festival of Toil and the Dinner Debate was the action research process to establish the art strategy for the Ruskin Square development in Croydon.
The Festival and Debate, commisioned by Stanhope Schroders, explores what form a contemporary art work for Ruskin Square might take in response to the propositions of the nineteenth century artist, critic and social entrepreneur John Ruskin, after whom this development is named and who once lived in Croydon.
Ruskin believed in the value of communal endeavour and artisan labour as a model of social and cultural equity. How this is relevant today was tested by a production process and debated by the dinner guests, who bring local and international expertise from their fields in the public and private sector, from the social, cultural and economic structures of global capitalism to ‘not for profit’ organisations and individuals.
The cutlery, crockery and food for the dinner was produced working with local social enterprises and with a team of local young care leavers. The team constructed bellows and a furnace, to smelt aluminium waste from the building site, to make cutlery which is polished on the pedal powered grinders and clay was extracted from soil dug from the site to make drinking vessels and an oven, in which to cook bread.