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Hidden Figures Tasting Event

A project aimed at bringing together women with a background in STEM to share their expertise and experience

​​The Hidden Figures project was formed in late 2022 building on conversations we’d had with women at the 2022 Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity. A number of women had spoken to us expressing their interest in getting involved with the festival or detailing their interests in following the festival due to particular past connections with the STEM Industry. Many of these women were no longer involved in their previous profession or pursuing their interests because they had faced a variety of barriers including: caring responsibilities, work or immigration status.

The project was formed to facilitate further engagement with these women and women like them, aiming to bring them together with other women with a background in STEM who weren't currently working. We hoped to bring these women together to share their expertise, experience and form a supportive network where they could share their knowledge and ideas. Together they would develop an event for the 2023 Nottingham Festival of Science and Curiosity.

Since October 2022 ignite! have been running the project Hidden Figures, based at City Arts. The initial aims of the project were very open and allowed the input and interests of the group to steer the subjects that we would explore together. Over time the sessions evolved to connect with other groups around the city including The Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum and When Women Gather - based at The New Art Exchange.

Throughout the project artist Rebecca Beinart has worked with the group to explore their ideas and interests through creative activities, group discussions, foraging walks, tasting sessions and a visit to the Boots Archive - influenced by the connections made with the group across communities and cultures.

Women from all of these groups have, through conversation and creativity shared knowledge of: recipes, herbalism, remedies, rituals, sustainability, self sufficiency and care. The project and the resulting event followed these common threads to explore and share this knowledge with others.

Through each session the group gathered information to document this knowledge. This was done through a variety of materials and techniques, they used microscope lenses attached to phone cameras to examine natural ingredients, writing to collect recipes and stories related to them, archive documents, texts from historical figures, photographs, painting, tasting notes and more. All of this was brought together to form a kind of recipe book built from the community's knowledge that would become a part of the final event.

At the final event the group invited the public to join them for a tasting and sharing session. People were invited to participate, to hear about the project and what the group had learned together. The event opened with one of the group leading an ‘Awakening of the senses’ , a thoughtful and meditative moment to allow people to land in space and open up their senses and imaginations for the session by immersing themselves in the scents of fresh Rosemary.

This was followed by a tasting menu that began with ‘Fire Cider Vinegar’ - a recipe the group had explored during previous sessions, and used as an immune system booster throughout the winter months. This moved on to a variety of infused oils, butters and jams - all of which were made from a refined list of ingredients that had been the most commonly mentioned ingredients throughout the group's earlier discussions. These ingredients had evoked the most stories, were used commonly in household recipes and remedies and connected with the most women.

The tasting session moved on to explore herbally infused teas and ‘Cookies of Joy’, the recipe for these cookies had come discussion in earlier sessions about Hildegard of Bingen who was a German Benedictine abbess and polymath active as a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and as a medical writer and practitioner during the High Middle Ages - who had become an important and symbolic figure to the group.

Throughout the tasting session participants were asked to make notes about their experience of tasting the food and drinks, and there were discussions about the memories these evoked and the relationships people had with the ingredients.

The session was rounded off with ‘Golden Milk’ a traditional recipe used throughout India containing Oat milk, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper and honey as an anti - inflammatory drink, followed by chewing on liquorice roots. All together the tasting event was a feast for the senses brought together from local recipes, herbalism, research and archival concoctions. Participants left with a specially made set of cards that aim to serve as reminders and notes of each ingredient and its properties.

This event showcased the book made by the group - a collection of knowledge, stories, wisdom and research shared by different women throughout the project and through science and history. The audience were invited to add to the book throughout the evening and finally the book is set to be donated and stored in a local library so that people form the local community can access it and in the hope that these recipes can be carried on and shared with others.

The Hidden Figures Project celebrated the knowledge of all self-identifying women and non- binary folk who weren't currently working in STEM for reasons of family, care, health, work or immigration status. We welcomed people of all genders to join us for the project and final event.

This project is funded by a grant from the National Lottery Community Fund.


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