Table Talk: Clementine Sandison on turning soil into social change

A look at the Open Jar Collective which aims to rebuild a relationship with the land by bringing communities together

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Table Talk: Clementine Sandison on turning soil into social change

I grew up in rural South Wales and learnt how to grow vegetables, forage for wild berries and cook seasonal fare from my mother. I moved to Glasgow to study and loved the energy of the city, the abundance of parks, sandstone tenements and the vacant industrial spaces that nature had recolonised. Alongside an arts degree, I became involved in community gardening and ran my first cookery group at the Red Road Women’s Centre where women from different backgrounds came together to share their family recipes and stories. In this context, cooking a meal was a way to feel more connected to home and share your cultural identity with others, transforming a mundane domestic chore into a powerful act of expression.

Growing, harvesting, cooking and eating together are vital social processes, just like art and culture. The word culture comes from the Latin verb colere which means to cultivate or till the soil, so in my mind there is a great deal of common ground between producing food and making art.

In 2013, with a group of likeminded friends, we set up Open Jar Collective – an artist co-op that uses food as a lens through which to view the world. We’ve explored the stories of dairy farmers in Dumfries and Galloway and run a popup café to create dialogue about community ownership. Our latest project, Soil City, aims to reimagine the city as if soil matters and will involve undertaking field research to inspire conversations about our relationship with the land.

Clementine Sandison is one third of artist co-operative Open Jar Collective. The group promotes community engagement and uses food to bring people together.

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