Embarking on a flavour-packed adventure in Bedford, Tastes Like Home is a culinary journey spanning Winter and Spring 2023/24. Generously flavoured with funding by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, with thanks to the awesome National Lottery players, and heaped with a generous portion of funding from Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zone for Bedford.

Meet the Chefs:

Radhika Aggarwal, our London-based Creative Producer, is a true artist in the kitchen of creativity—she’s into theatre-making, sound artistry, music, and activism. Stirring things up with her devised, ensemble-led work, she founded Echo Chamber Audio, a hub for aural storytelling and sound. 

Alex Levene, our Bedford-based sous-chef, who’s been orchestrating activities at The Place Bedford from 2017-2023 and is now leading WordSetFree, where performance meets spoken word, games, civic engagement, and publishing.

Project Tasting Notes:

Tastes Like Home is on a mission to uncover and share the delicious memories of food and drink ingrained in the taste buds of Bedford and its residents. Picture this: we’re hunting for stories spiced up with flavours from old restaurants, markets, stores, and corner shops. And guess what? We’re cooking up a storm with local independent establishments to engage all sorts of taste buds and unravel memories tied to the universal feast that binds us together—nourishment.

We invite you to become co-creators in this heritage arts project, utilising storytelling, shared food, and music to delve into the concepts of ‘home,’ ‘place,’ and ‘heritage,’ exploring their personal significance. We believe that food and drink are the secret ingredient for stirring the mixing pot of cultural heritage, fermenting social identity, and a brewing sense of belonging. Often overlooked in the historical narrative, the transient nature of shops, markets, and restaurants has concealed significant portions of Bedford’s story, particularly the contributions of working-class communities who have chosen to make their homes here in Bedford over the years.

Exploring Bedford’s High Street & Town Centre, known for its diverse dining options, we aim to lay out the historical links between the changing use of our buildings & the changing role of food in our identity & culture. With its smorgasbord of restaurants & mini-markets catering to diaspora communities, we hope to lift the lid on the diverse palette of Bedford and share the ingredients list of food & drink that have formed Bedford’s Cultural Identity in the 21st Century. Our project seeks to engage people from all backgrounds, with a focus on our more seasoned residents which includes our Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Italian, African and Polish communities, seen non homogeneously to include all the shared heritage Bedford offers.

Ready for the Culinary Quest? Join Us! This project is our secret recipe to map and savour our ‘semi-intangible’ cultural heritage. We’re stirring up stories of migration, settlement, and the crucial role of food and drink in British history. We want to hear your tales—like, what’s the first restaurant you remember filling your belly in Bedford? Which old cafes & pubs are etched in your memory on the High Street? Where did you take your first-date on a South Asian flavour adventure? Spill the beans on your childhood market escapades. Where did Momma’s secret Hot Sauce ingredient really come from? Where was Bedford’s first Polish mini-market to stuff your face with Kiełbasa? Which restaurant added the first dash of Italian spice to Bedford? Etc

What’s On The Menu?

During 2024, participants & the local public will contribute to creating a map of sites of “intangible heritage,” weaving together stories into an evolving web of cultural significance. These vital cultural landmarks will form a digital map available online.

Tastes Like Home supports local participants to craft written material—songs, poems, short stories, dialogues—inspired by crucial food heritage locations in Bedford. These narratives aim to ground individuals in experiences, offering a glimpse into diverse rituals and relationships surrounding food.  

Collaborators producing content for the trail will be compensated for their time to attend workshops that will help develop their stories and at the end of the workshops participants will be offered the choice of narrating their own contributions, or working with local performers to give voice to these stories. After which they will be blended together by Radhika & her audio wizard team at Echo Chamber, adding their own special audio ingredients, to create an aural feast for the ears on a story trail throughout Bedford Town Centre.

This Audio Trail will be available to the public through the Overhear mobile app as they walk around the town, with each story tied to a relevant point on the map.

We will be hosting a project launch event during February Half-Term at The Place Bedford. This will feature some of the recorded stories, as well as live performances & activities. Stay tuned for the delicious details in January 2024.

This Audio Trail isn’t just a quick bite—it’s a full meal deal! It’ll be active until December 2024, and to spice things up, WordSetFree is organising four guided meetups during Easter holidays 2024. Join us for a tasty adventure, learn more about the stories, and let’s shine a spotlight on local food-related businesses. Get ready to spice up your calendar!