SMU-in-London: Arts 2012

During the SMU-in-London: Arts summer program, students are taking courses that explore solo performance and the city “as” performance. The students will create and perform original works, all against the backdrop of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Summer Olympics.

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Jumping into London’s melting pot

An update from Kelsey, a sophomore majoring in dance:

Between the Jubilee’s grand stage and vintage carousel rides in Battersea Park, I found a food haven and cultural melting pot boiling with Mediterranean, Indian, and even Mexican cuisine. With over 15 concession stands selling food ranging from steamy Thai soup to chocolate Mexican churros, the decision was difficult. However, my rumbling stomach led me to the shortest line in the park: an Italian booth serving their famed ‘Risotto Balls.’ Although the flavorful risotto satisfied my hunger, it did not satisfy my curiosity, leaving me to question the other genres served at the Jubilee.

London’s residents have many ethnic backgrounds, primarily stemming from England’s imperial past. London’s cultural diversity is embodied in its food, from Indian curry houses to French-inspired cafes and traditional pubs. The Jubilee mirrored the city’s diversity — a city where local traditions interact and fuse with global societies. This ‘glocal’ awareness creates a stew of culture and urban identity that was highlighted in the Jubilee’s food options.

This stew of cultural cuisine also reflected the heritage of England’s commoners, with their quaint tea and treat shops associated with British royalty. While the image of the Queen’s face or delicate British foliage adorned the tea, biscuit, and cake stands, the ethnic food corner of the park lacked such detail. Here the prices more accurately reflected the product, and people gathered to eat a sustainable meal. For example, after a considerable amount of encouraging from a fellow queue member, I ate a precious risotto treat that fell on the floor (five second rule), thereby demonstrating the common man’s hunger. Although coffee and teashops were sprinkled throughout the park, the ethnic booths served as the central hub for finding food, making this spot not only a commonplace but also a culturally diverse city within itself.

Despite practically dying from below-freezing temperatures and torrential downpours, my overall experience at the festival exceeded my expectations. With my mission in this study abroad program being to eventually think and perform as an indigenous Londoner, I climbed up and down to find authentic London experiences. Literally climbing on top of a portable toilet to see the flotilla, I stood with hundreds of people who admire their queen; and although I might have hung off the edge of a toilet –  holding on for dear life – the struggle was well worth the view.

Overall, the Jubilee helped to accomplish my mission of short-term London citizenship. The celebration stirred me into the true melting pot of London life. Surrounded by amazing company, I listened to an English choir, shopped through the vintage village, and even plummeted to what seemed like certain death in a terrifying carnival ride. I am so privileged to have gotten the opportunity to celebrate the queen’s reign with her biggest fans — the residents of London.

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