When I first saw ‘Wild Dining’ advertised I knew I had to book a place for this unique event presented by Ikon Gallery’s Slow Boat. Local art, four courses of food and drink, Birmingham’s canals, and a boat ride. I was IN. And the Bank Holiday Sunday sailing didn’t disappoint.

20 of us stepped aboard Ikon’s Slow Boat, docked in Brindley Place, to the traditional August bank holiday rain. All we knew was that we would be viewing Ming de Nasty’s photographic exhibition LADYWOOD, displayed around the Soho Loop, whilst being served dinner on the boat.

LADYWOOD: strength, beauty & diversity

As we sailed through tunnels and away from Birmingham city centre, we were introduced to Ming de Nasty’s powerful photography. Produced in partnership with Mothership, the Birmingham artist (and Ikon’s Slow Boat artist in residence) had displayed a series of striking portraits of female refugees. In strong, defiant poses, appearing beneath bridges, and welcoming us on our journey, they seemed to turn the tables. We were the newcomers to their territory here; we didn’t know what to expect or who would emerge from each new bend, assimilated into the local street art and graffiti.

The photographic series also included intricate studies of flora and fauna, celebrating the local landscape.

A floating feast 

And the food. The food! When I heard Kaye Winwood was collaborating on the project, I knew it was going to be excellent. Kaye Winwood Projects produces immersive food and sensory experiences for curious appetites with a desire to push the boundaries of dining.

And this pushed our boundaries.

We were welcomed aboard with a glass of elderflower bubbles and rich sloe gin. This immediately warmed the atmosphere.

Then the vegan starter arrived. On large wooden boards was a beautiful display of peas and mint on local breads, served with crisy kale and a beetroot vinaigrette. Fresh leaves were stuffed with startingly pink beetroot labne and local herbs.

This was followed by a feast of scorched chicory and black garlic tahini, beets and plums in a rose and walnut dressing and charred cauliflower. Carrot and courgette carpaccio accompanied, along with a burnt orange and thyme dressing.

Passed around the table was a selection of homemade breads and pickles.

The textures, colours and tastes were sensational. There was a real sense of joy around the long table.

As we looped around the canals, we were then brought a trio of richly flavoured regional cheeses with honey and crisp honeycomb from a Bearwood beehive.

And as we found ourselves heading home, we were treated to freshly baked scones (soft, and the right side of crumbly) served with a rich damson and sloe gin conserve, and a fresh herbal tea.

For me, this event was a true celebration of Birmingham. Local artwork, exhibited along our canals, freshly foraged food from the region, and excellent company with likeminded creatives and Brummies (including a lot of us adopted ones).

Birmingham (and Ikon) we need more events like this please!

You can find more about Ikon’s unique programme aboard their Slow Boat here.

Ikon Slow Boat

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