Against the grain – May 2010

The Sackler Centre at the Victoria and Albert Museum played host to the 15th at abrahams event, Against the grain. Art critic, writer and documentary maker Ben Lewis was chair for the evening. With great wit and his own unique take on the event’s theme, Ben marshalled an evening of controversy, provocation, entertainment and sublime performance. Speakers ranged from a young female performance poet to a chef specialising in nose to tail eating, with some radical politics and an inspiring maths performance completing the line-up for the evening.

Kate Tempest, prominent and peerless poet and performer opened the evening with a blazing and mesmerising performance of her spoken word piece Life of a Scribe. She also gave a brief but inspiring account of her experiences of going against the grain to achieve respect and recognition in her field.

Stephen G Bown then took to the floor to introduce the work of the Optimum Population Trust, a charity of which he is trustee. Stephen treated the audience to plain facts, with some radical interpretations. He gave an account of the Trust’s approach to population growth and posed some suggestions that proved to be quite provocative. His presentation was followed by a Q + A, in which he welcomed debate and discussion among the assembled audience.

Margot Henderson, chef and caterer specialising in fresh, seasonal produce and nose to tail eating gave a fascinating account of her journey in food, in which she has broken with accepted wisdom and introduced new approaches to eating. Margot also supplied some delicious canapes, examples of using the best of seasonal produce and economy of waste to produce world-class dishes.

Last up were Maths Buskers Sara Santos and Matt Parker. They performed a sequence of interactive mathematical games designed to facilitate maths thinking in an audience used to dealing with any numerical issues on iphones, in excel or the old fashioned calculator. Maths and entertainment are not obvious bedfellows, but confronted by their challenges the audience was quick to respond and engage with the Maths Buskers’ presentation.

at abrahams resident DJ Simon White set the tone for the evening by playing a suitably against the grain selection of soundtracks.

The event was photographed by Paul Greenleaf and illustrated by Mark Mitchell.

To mark the event, Abrahams design studio created an inspiring A to Z of ‘against the grainers’ – people who are changing the world (in big or small ways) and aren’t afraid to follow their convictions even when others said it can’t be done. Download it here and see if you agree with our selection …