• an intro
  • intro 2
  • intro 3
  • serving
  • sausepans
  • workshop

Alternative Dialogues

Alternative Dialogues 2005-2010

Letter to Jane Phillips, Director of Mission Gallery, 2005:

Dear Jane,

Further to our discussion about creating a project at the gallery in August, I had the idea of transforming the gallery into a temporary kitchen and eating space. Members of the public could call in see what’s happening and experience the space in a different way. I’d like to work with the local and international community, I met someone from the asylum drop in centre who said they’d like to cook a traditional dish for us. I have a gas camping stove that could be used, I think the idea would be that a different person from a different country cooks everyday.  The recipes could be documented and shared.

Let me know what you think, Owen


Alternative Dialogues is a project which started out as a short two week gallery experiment during artist Owen Griffiths twelve month residency in 2006, which then developed into a groundbreaking annual event. The project started by working with the asylum and refugee community of Swansea and has since extended to all members of the community and offsite projects.

The visual results, although secondary to the act of cooking and its documentation, became an alternative record of the event. Here, a gallery space was transformed into a canteen, a kitchen, a community centre, a happening, an event, which was open to all. The name Alternative Dialogues: Cultural Exchange Through Cooking, describes the process of conversation and engagement that Griffiths' events create. A space becomes active by people preparing food, carrying water, frying garlic, in the white space of Mission Gallery’s apse, where every action becomes performative in itself.

The project also connects with the founding spirit of the gallery as an artist run space, where a wide variety of activities have been held over the years. The gallery, St Nicholas Church, formally a Seamen’s Mission, was a non-denominational church, a centre to the maritime and shipping community in the Port of Swansea. This inclusive sentiment of its original use is echoed in the ethos of the project: promoting an investigation of cultures without formality, instead the focus is held on the poetic and the everyday.

As part of the residency program at Mission Gallery, resident artist Owen Griffiths worked with asylum and refugee communities to create cooking events at the apse of the galley. Alternative Dialogues: cultural exchange through cooking became a title for the event, which became a model for the following years interaction and outreach with art workshops and events alongside the cooking activity.

Alternative Dialogues works predominantly with female participants who often don't participate in workshops. By using a  language and skill that familiar to the participants, we were able to create an atmosphere where cultures exchanged and talked about the practicalities of cooking, the different ways of cooking rice, of how to juice a lemon which opened up a level of discussion between each other and the public previously undeveloped. Within these simple conversations significant issues raised themselves and were discussed.

Project Director: Owen Griffiths

Devised and Created by Owen Griffiths & Jane Phillips 

Photography by Mikko Takkunen