A CANDLELIT SUPPER FOR ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE

By Tuesday, October 31, 2017 0 , Permalink 1

Candlelit supper clubBack in July our inspiring friend Giles Duley asked us (Dean & I) if we’d like to plan and style a table for hosting supper clubs as part of his upcoming exhibition – I Can Only Tell You What My Eyes See – to be hosted at the Truman Brewery in Londons Brick Lane from Wednesday 4th Oct – Sunday 15th Oct. In the evenings there were to be gatherings where people would be sharing food, having conversations and striking up collaborations. A hundred different guests to sit and enjoy a feast of Levantine cuisine for ten evenings – the chance to talk to strangers and share ideas. The answer without hesitation, was – Yes!rustic dinner table settingBut this is not all about just dinner and candlelight – our friend and photographer Giles Duley has seen and continues to see the unimaginable, we are constantly inspired by his resilience and strength. He ‘worked as a successful fashion and music photographer for ten years. However, having become disillusioned with celebrity culture, he decided to abandon photography and left London to begin work as a full-time carer. It was in this role that he rediscovered his craft and its power to tell the stories of those without a voice. In 2000, he returned to photography, personally funding trips to document the work of NGOs and the stories of those affected by conflict across the world. In 2011, Duley lost both legs and his left arm after stepping on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Afghanistan whilst photographing those caught up in the conflict. He was told he would never walk again and that his career was over. However, characteristically stubborn, Duley told his doctors “I’m still a photographer”, and returned to work in Afghanistan less than 18 months later.’Mock Olive Branch - (Phillyrea) The Real Flower CompanyThe brief was to create a rustic table with a Mediterranian feel and cosy atmosphere. In Giles’ own words – “For the past few years, I have been documenting refugee’s stories across the Middle East and Europe. It has been an experience that has changed my life. My hope is that with these evenings I can repay some of the hospitality and friendship I have received and create an environment that facilitates conversation and understanding. An evening where stories will be shared and action inspired”.Mismatched chairs for rustic dinnerWe wanted to create a relaxed feel with mismatched furniture and a simple but inviting tablescape. We set about wracking our brains and calling in favours with folks we had met online or I had met through this blog. I have so many generous people to thank who helped us out. Let’s begin with the table – to seat 100 people each night we created this twenty-four-metre long central table! Giles was hoping for soft lighting, a warm and inviting oasis in the middle of the photography exhibit – so we loaned a beautiful warm white festoon bundle from the amazing folks at Lights 4 Fun (I think I need these in my life forever). The tables were borrowed from a very generous friend who hosts weddings at his beautiful farm in Tenterden. The chairs were a mix of rented vintage folding chairs from Rustic Hire and a collection of vintage dining chairs left over from a country wedding and lent to us by one of our amazing (knitting and flower growing) Instagram friends – Irinarustic dinner table settingFor the foliage, I wanted to use olive branches or something similar and rosemary, both native to the Mediterranean region. Simple, beautiful and delicately scented rosemary is a gentle herb associated with weddings or a token of love in medieval times and remembrance too and the Olive branch is the worldwide symbol of peace. Both seemed fitting for all we were to be talking about and what Giles was hoping to achieve with his series of suppers. We threaded Mock Olive Branch – (Phillyrea – from The Real Flower Company) all the way down the centre of the huge rustic table and placed a sprig of rosemary on each plate.rustic dinner table settingWe had handmade ceramics dotted around the tables and venue that were generously given to us by potter Ali Herbert and the bulk of our crockery and cutlery was hired from amazing local company Abbey Catering (who we can’t thank enough for pulling together extra plates and chairs when we were in a bind after our vintage serving trolley lost a wheel and smashed a stack of plates and we had a few more guests than expected one evening)!Giles Duley Legacy of War Exhibition and supper clubThe plucking of strings as instruments were being tuned and the soft sound of brushstrokes as paintings were being created in a makeshift studio – this exhibition was a living breathing experience from 10 am until 10 pm – with musicians and speakers in the evenings and an artist in residence every day. Whilst FM radios transmitted the distant hum of the cities and streets Giles has visited.Artist painter and poet, Semaan Khawam Mock Olive Branch - (Phillyrea) The Real Flower CompanyBehind the scenes, we rallied with amazing volunteers, production crew, charity workers and old friends to make the evenings cosy and welcoming. The food was prepared by Sakbeh – a home food delivery company created by married Syrian couple Nadeen and Louai. ‘Sakbeh’ is a Syrian word that transcends the literal meaning of pouring food onto a plate; it is a notion that is deeply rooted in Syrian values. You pour a Sakbeh of your food to your neighbours, a Sakbeh to your visitors to enjoy your food again in their homes, and you send a Sakbeh to that friend whom you know loves what you cooked that day. For every Sakbeh they deliver in London, they will deliver a Sakbeh to a Syrian refugee child via the #sharethemeal app.Candlelit supper clubWith no actual kitchen to work from, serving dinner to 100 people for ten nights in a row was no small task, and when almost one hundred and thirty showed up one evening it was all hands on deck, we borrowed cutlery form the awesome peeps at DF Mexico around the corner (if you haven’t been, get there), scavenged extra chairs from around the building, made do with smaller plates and everyone mucked in – like you would at home and a few more places were needed at the table.Giles Duley - Legacy of War Foundation ExhibitionIn the evenings, guests arrived and wandered the space, taking in the images and reading the stories of people Giles has met globally who have survived or are trying to escape conflict. The whole experience was very moving and left everyone wondering what they could do and how they can help. From the smallest gesture of sharing Giles’ work to hands-on help to donating – you can read more about the project and foundation here.rustic dinner table setting  rustic dinner table settingWith places set, hundreds of Bolsius candles twinkling and glowing from jars and bottles, platters of aromatic food filling the gaps and wine in glasses clinking in between, Giles invited everyone to take a seat next to someone they did not arrive with, make a new friend and enjoy the evenings as they unfolded.Sakbeh homemade Syrian food FM transmitter with travel sounds Giles Duley - Legacy of War FoundationWe listened to Giles’ uplifting and heartbreaking stories of people he has met and been able to help, talks from EMERGENCY UK doctors, Poetry from resident artist Semaan Khawam, beautiful and haunting violin music performed by Syrian classical violinist Alaa Arsheed and some wonderful song collaborations between Alaa and Lisa Hannigan. We cried, laughed, looked inside and outside of ourselves and made new friends.Classical Violin player Alaa Arsheed Candlelit supper club Irish singer Lisa HanniganIt was a huge honour to be invited to contribute to such an amazing event and help out in the small way we knew how. To have played a part in the 10 days of conversation, collaboration and community that Giles created around his exhibition. We both had an unforgettable experience, emotional and uplifting. It’s not often you get to sit at a table with a lady who cycled from Paris to India in the 1970’s, a Millwall supporter, doctors, musicians, artists, witness a whole room brought to silence by the beauty of a Syrian violinist and feel inspired as everyone finds a common unity in order to create a better world for us all. Thank you so much Giles xxxSakbeh homemade Syrian food     Giles Duley - Legacy of War Exhibition Candlelit supper club

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