Edible Histories

Edible Histories was an arts project that took place part as part of Bristol 650 celebrations.

Five objects that tell the story of Bristol were selected from the following five local venues: Aerospace Bristol, Bristol Zoo ProjectTyntesfield, Glenside Hospital Museum and M-shed. 1-2m sized replicas of the objects were then created in fairly traded chocolate by the award-winning Bristol chocolatier Zara’s Chocolates – wrapped in gold foil and displayed with the original pieces across the city.

Chocolate Smashing Event – 21st October

On 21st October at St.George’s Bristol, all the chocolate objects were brought together for the first time and then broken up. The event included an introduction about the project by the artist Luke Jerram and a talk by historian Dr Richard Stone who is a specialist in Bristol’s history and the transatlantic slave trade. The five objects were then broken up using hammers and chisels with live musical accompaniment by pianist Oliver Humpage! Whilst attendees took home bags of chocolate, most of it was distributed to Trussell Trust foodbanks across the city. Over £500 was also raised for this charity.
Watch highlights on BBC News

The Chocolate Artworks

  • The first object was a giant 1m diameter replica of a button from Glenside Hospital Museum. Bristol’s purpose built asylum was completed in 1861. This button represents the many patients who were provided with care here. Buttons would have been stitched onto clean robust clothes made for patients in the sewing room to provide them with suitable clothing to work within the hospital.
  • The second chocolate facsimile was a 1m diameter ship’s wheel from the M-shed museum. Representing the city’s trading history, the wheel came from the decommissioned ship TSS Bayano, which for years sailed bananas and rum from the Caribbean, and also served in the first and second world wars.
  • The third sculpture was a model of Concorde and was displayed at Aerospace Bristol Museum. Luke says “The whole point of Edible Histories is to talk about the famous items, collections and objects that can help tell the story of our city. Although, the Concorde is an iconic piece of design, its worth also noting that they produced more pollution per passenger-mile than any other commercial aircraft in history! Is Concorde still something we should still revere?”
  • The fourth sculpture was of a gorilla for Bristol Zoo Project. Representing Bristol’s history of conservation and natural history work, the city is home to dozens of charities, companies and other organisations working hard to try and protect our precious planet and the animals we share it with.
  • The final of the series was a set of giant chocolate bottles – replicas of bottles found in the medical cabinet of National Trust Tyntesfield. These bottles help tell the story of the family who lived there whilst also celebrating Bristol’s history in the development of medicine and scientific research.

Through Luke’s recent work in Freetown, Sierra Leone, he was able to research the city’s role in the slave trade and see the negative impact on the country compared to the long lasting wealth it brought to cities of the UK. ‘Bristol’s involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade is an important part of our local history, heavily linked to the production of chocolate, through cocoa and sugar farming. Edible Histories provided an opportunity to engage with this challenging part of our city’s identity’ said Luke.

Bristol City Council’s Deputy Mayor Asher Craig added: “I welcome this project, including the decision not to shy away from some of the more difficult and challenging topics Bristolians need to talk about, and address. It’s important that we take the time to learn everything – the good and the bad – about Bristol’s history to ensure future generations are educated and feel connected to this city”.

Bristol is today home to many, many independent chocolate makers – using creative talent and ethical practices including fairly traded chocolate, like Zara’s Chocolates in Southville. The commitment from chocolate companies to learn from the past actions, both good and bad, of their predecessors is important, Luke added.

The arts project had the backing of Metro Mayor Dan Norris’s West of England Mayoral Combined Authority, who celebrated the 150th anniversary of the chocolate Easter egg we all know and love – first produced in Bristol by J.S. Fry and Sons back in 1873.

Metro Mayor added: “Bristolians can feel rightly proud about our chocolate manufacturing history. But we’ve brought and contributed so, so much to this country, and across the globe. This is a brilliant project celebrating the fascinating history around some of the objects and places that define this most extraordinary city – told through everyone’s favourite sweet substance”.

Press Coverage.
BBC television news 
BBC News 
BBC News
Bristol 247
Bristol Evening Post
BBC Points West 

With Thanks

With thanks to the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority for their support of this project.