Bling bread, alcohol-infused fondue and pulp romance were the ingredients brought to the table by UHC artist Jai Redman for his Café Valise lunch at Metal.

Whilst we dipped our gold-leaf embossed bread into the bubbling seventies culinary delight, Jai dipped into The Colditz Cock, a Barbara Cartland inspired novella he co-wrote and published as part of the Cartland Institute for Romance Research, commissioned for the Tatton Park Biennial 2012

Over lunch Jai explained how The Colditz Cock, a war-time romance taking its title from an escape glider built in the German prisoner-of-war camp, mirrors Cartland’s idiosyncratic literary style, narrative structure and characterisation – ‘“My love, my love, I am here” the noise of her kitten heels seemed to proclaim’ – whilst incorporating aspects of her life: who knew Cartland had devised the first aeroplane-towed glider or inspired the 1990s Tory slogan ‘Back to Basics’ after telling John Major that they needed to get back to romance?

The rationale and research behind The Colditz Cock was interesting, particularly to a romance geek like myself, but it also raised some interesting points regarding the role of clown-like personalities in society and politics, however, the Jackanory style format set the tone for a somewhat stilted dialogue as opposed to a more informal and inclusive discussion, and it wasn’t until the ‘formal’ lunch was closed that the bubble of conversational chatter rose from the table.

It’s difficult to manage the dynamics of a group of strangers coming together for the first time but ultimately they were warmed by the conviviality of Jai’s fondue lunch and inspired to consider how we should be more welcoming of those we might readily write off as eccentric ‘clowns’ and more suspicious of the homogenous personas presented to us in the media and politics: which one is wearing the mask?

The joy of Biennial discoveries is often in the periphery detail, and John Cooper Clarke’s spoken word soundtrack, ‘Welcome Aboard!’ rattles and rolls out Edge Hill’s rail origins with Victorian laissez faire and Beatles ‘yeah, yeah’, yeah’ and, along with Metal’s temporary library installation, deserves consideration as a permanent feature at the station.

The Biennial’s theme of hospitality will be extended beyond the café format and reflected in the content of Metal’s evening events, the first of which, Oreet Ashery’s ‘Party for Freedom’, presents a humorous look at the portrayal of Islam as a threat to Western values of Freedom on Thursday 11th October. All are free, but booking required: email or call 0151 707 2277.

There’s a well-thumbed copy of The Colditz Cock up for grabs for anyone who’d like to find out if love prevails, or you can read an excerpt online.

Tunnel Road

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