Temporary public artwork with Coleman Project Space in the site of former Biscuit town, Bermondsey entitled SOS:OK Emergency Biscuit, which allowed former workers of the Biscuit Factory to imagine and design a new biscuit to represent their neighborhood.
Bermondsey, in south-east London, was once affectionately known as Biscuit Town. Home to some of the largest biscuit factories in the country, it provided employment to generations of local families.
Now it’s a very different story. The biscuit factories have closed, and many of their former employees are unemployed. The only businesses that come into Bermondsey now are the large property developers buying up old factories and turning them into gated residences for well-paid workers at nearby Canary Wharf.
First part of the project consisted in setting up a Memory factory in place of the former Peek Frean’s Biscuit Factory, announced as ‘a reopening of the factory for one week only as a memory factory.’ The workshops investigated the factory’s history,gathering archive material. Peek Frean former workers were invited to come to contribute their memories of Biscuit Town. They arrived with memorabilia which filled the project space turning it into a display of selected photos, clothing, gifts, books, films, sound samples and journal entries that mapped the space of memory.
A new emergency biscuit, cooked to a specially designated recipe, was created to be distributed to visitors to the gallery and on the streets of Bermondsey. Crates of biscuits were distributed by horse and cart on Tower Bridge Road and on the Blue. The exercise was partly a reference to a relief operation of 1870 during the Franco-Prussian war. When the prussians lifted their siege of Paris, Peek Freans supplied thousands of biscuits to the starving citizens.
The exhibition at the Coleman ProjectSpace was staged as a relief operation, also a response to the hunger crisis which comprises an international emergency.
SOS:OK was featured in the exhibition Public Services along with the work of Marjetica Potrč, Apolonija Šušteršič, Temporary Services (USA) andTadej Pogacar & Anja Planiscek, representing the way artists today think about structures and forms in contemporary cities.
By occupying the space that lies between the many different city users, corporate capital (and its interests), and the urban structure, they draw attention to processes of degradation and appropriation, borders between public and private, deindustrialization and precarity, while developing new public-service models based on participation, exchange, and solidarity.
Tadej Pogacar, curator Public Services
During October 2004 Coleman Project Space was occupied with operation SOS:OK (SAVE OUR SOULS: ZERO KILLINGS), the largest ever simulation of an Emergency Relief Food operation in London to test the readiness of its emergency rescue services. The aim: to test a prototype for an emergency biscuit that is nutritionally and culturally appropriate as well as logistically convenient for delivery to uprooted and disaster affected populations in the first stages of an emergency. The biscuit, envisaged as the prototype for a high-protein, fortified, is a stand-alone ready to eat food to respond to the escalating number of man-made and natural humanitarian emergencies.
The mock relief food operation was held at the art gallery in Webster Road, on the site adjacent to the former Peek Freans. Known as ‘the biscuit town’, it was the first biscuit factory to be involved in a food rescue operation, that of feeding the starving population of Paris, after the raising of the siege of the city, which took place during the Franco-German War of 1870. During the exercise, more than 400 volunteers pretended to be the victimes of a major terror attack and underwent a food assistance operation, which involved the distribution of appropriate and nutritious biscuits on a timely basis by the relief crew to the starving population. A spokesperson for the London Emergency Services said that “the exercise was as realistic as possible”.
SOS:OK took place adjacent to Biscuit Town, the name given to the area surrounding Peek Freans biscuit factory. SOS:OK was a response to the history of the site (Peek Freans was the first factory to manufacture an emergency biscuit ration to feed the starving population of Paris during the Franco-German war 1870-71) and the current international state of emergency.
The project was conceived in two stages.
The first, took place in June 2004 and involved the setting-up of Memory Factory and included a series of workshops based at Coleman Project Space. This brought together artists and local historians with neighborhood residents and former factory workers, to gather the archive of the nexus of the labour-urban-social identity of the former Biscuit Town;
The second, in October-November 2004 had at its core an artistic intervention that crossed a gallery installation with a public art intervention. The launch and the time based performance of SOS:OK was inserted into a wider public campaign including billboards which explored the manufacture of place, in this case, the re-appropriation of Biscuit Town and provided a way of connecting the local production with global issues of productivity, emergency and international solidarity.for more images follow the link :::
the kit contains:
SOS:OK Emergency biscuit
Guide to SOS:OK
THE SOS:OK BISCUIT
Nutritional biscuit designed for mock and real emergency food relief operations (contains butter, sugar and flour, pre-cooked and compacted into biscuit form). Can be eaten dry (as a biscuit) or in the form of porridge made by crushing SOS:OK into drinking water, milk, tea or coffee.
Distribute either in mock emergency training operations (food relief, anti-terror exercises) to test readiness for emergency food relief operation or in response to real crises when food must be distributed for immediate survival needs. Can be used by both collective structures (art galleries, museums, temporary feeding centres and community organisations) or by families and individuals. Developed for all situations of food scarcity, real and imagined.
Instructions for use
Use as biscuit: Targeted distribution to emergency exercise volunteers or general distribution to displaced populations in humanitarian crisis. Dry ration for children in feeding centres, survival ration in case of total scarcity.
Should be eaten slowly, well chewed.
Use as porridge: Crush the biscuits into boiled drinking water or milk, cold or luke-warm and mix well. Use 200 ml of liquid for 2 biscuits
Article to be justified
Reserved for simulated food relief operations or real emergency situations.
“SOS:OK” Emergency Biscuit should not be used as a replacement for customary daily food, or in long-term feeding programmes if ordinary customary food is available.
THE SOS:OK GUIDE
graphic design by ajdin basic and paula roush based on real life experience of being fed w/ emergency food during the wars in bosnia and portugal.
typeface gyro designed by domen fras
publication date: october 2004
printing: aldgate press
texts: zeigam azizov, alice park and paula roush
ads for the local press
Alice Park, Current perspectives on the role of art in urban development. Do artistic interventions benefit a community? Art in Community Settings, Birkbeck College, University of London 2004, Published in SOS:OK guide, msdm publications 2004
concept and production : paula roush/msdm
in collaboration with frances coleman of colemanprojectspace
graphic design: ajdin basic
typeface gyro: domen fras
texts: zeigam azizov and alice park
printing: aldgate press
sos:ok memory factory
Winifred Scott and Mike Ostler (the Bata Reminiscence Centre and the Local History Forum in Tilbury)
the children from the Southpark Primary and residents of Bluegrove.
Dave Lewis and Arne Sjogren (blackfriars photography project)
Nina Pope + the Bata-ville project (A Thurrock Arts Generate commission)
the Art in Community Settings working group at the Birkbeck College/ University of London, in particular the memory factory workshops team:
With the friendly support of
WorkSpacegroup in particular Hilary Best, Nick Bright and David Kershaw
Cafe Gallery Projects
Dedicated to all former peek freans workers and relatives who lovingly contributed to the biscuit town memory pool and whose list is too long to include here, and in particular a special thansk you to: Rosemarie and Kathleen Ellis, Hazel Robinson, Ruth Jenkinson, and Rose Elkins
S0S>0K has been produced and published with the support of arts council england and the calouste gulbenkian foundation and additional support from the southwark council. The memory factory was supported by The South East London Community Foundation and Community Renewal Unit.