Jun 17, 2021
As part of the Hope in a Box Project funded by DCMS and produced by Revoluton Arts, Luton-based creative producer Shemiza Rashid conceived and delivered A Date to Share, a community-focused project looking at food, creativity, and coming together in difficult times.
The initial call-out asked members of the Luton community to share their favourite date recipes through Ramadhan, looking for inventive ways to use the delicious delicacy in both traditional and unexpected recipes. Fifty households across Luton were given a pack of dates: everyone was invited to pit then cook, bake, juice or add their own creative twist to a British or family favourite recipe using the date fruit as the main ingredient and enter a cooking competition judged by celebrity cookbook author and TV presenter, Shahnaaz Ayub.
Throughout April and May, Shemiza invited guests to share their favourite recipe and its connection to family or home on her radio show The Urban Cube on InspireFM.
There was stiff competition for the winner of the recipe challenge with lots of mouth-watering recipes highlighted By Shahnaaz in the final radio show, with particular congratulations to the young entries to the competition to whom Shahnaaz kindly offered runner-up prizes. The ultimate winner was Hasina Rahman with her mouth-watering Coffee and Date cake.
As the winner of the grand prize, Hasina was invited to Bury Park restaurant Chai and Chapati for a congratulatory meal. Chai and Chapati, an instagrammable hot-spot in the bustling Dunstable Road in Bury Park, also put her Coffee and Date cake on the menu for a limited time in June - a perfect time to finally be able to come together and share a cup of chai and a sweet treat.
Hasina said of her win: ‘I was truly honoured to win the cake competition with Revoluton arts! The recipe included 2 of my favourite ingredients...coffee and dates! Was a fun experience and I'm glad I took part. The meal at Chai and Chapati was superb. The staff and food were exceptional and we all had a great time! Thank you Revoluton Arts & Chai and Chapati.’
Alongside the call for recipes, Revoluton Arts commissioned local artist and Revoluton collaborator Umera Fatima to create Covid Blues, a beautiful capturing of the resilience and sacrifice shown in the last year fighting Covid-19. The artwork features stones from dates eaten by members of the Luton Muslim community during Iftar, cleaned and painted to form the frame for the piece.
Covid Blues exhibited for a limited window at the beginning of June in Chai and Chapati, where visitors could see the painting and try out the winning coffee and date cake.
As a final celebration, the artists involved gathered at Marsh House in Marsh Farm for a final celebration, captured on film for future enjoyment.
Project producer Shemiza Rashid said of the experience: ‘The A Date to Share project was an exciting , unpredictable, invigorating and uplifting experience . It was wonderful to see how such a simple idea like a cooking competition and upcycling the date stone into art could bring a community together so beautifully, in particular in Ramadhan. The public response to the Art piece Covid Blues has been wonderful and spiritually engaging.’