From 14 August this year another inclusive art project, groving, will appear on the streets of Bury St Edmunds, following the success of the first in 2019. This year the theme will be Silver Spoon.
Artworks will be placed daily on the streets and in public places in the town. Artworks will be accompanied by a new written work by a poet or author in this blog. The public can view the works or pick them up for free and take them home.
Bury St Edmunds is dominated visually by the sugar beet factory, which contrasts boldly with the medieval grid and interesting mix of historic buildings that make up the core of the market town. The ‘beet’ also makes its presence felt through the distinctive smell and plumes of vapor during processing.
The factory at Bury St Edmunds started operations in the 1920s, and has been processing sugar beet grown in Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire ever since, linking the town inextricably with it’s rural hinterland. During 1973, the Bury sugar beet factory became the largest in Europe when two new silos were built. The refinery processes beet from 1,300 growers – 2 million tonnes – into 320,000 tonnes of sugar per annum. It’s common to see beets, like lumpen severed heads, rolling on the road when 660 lorry-loads of beet are being delivered on average each day.
In 1972, ‘Silver Spoon’ was launched as the retail brand name of British Sugar, selling granulated, caster, cubed and icing sugar. British Sugar now has 4 factories, down from 18, but can still produce as much sugar. It has recently faced challenges including major market Tesco switching to a sugar producer in China, and the campaign to reduce sugar consumption in the face of rising obesity and diabetes.
And the phrase ‘silver spoon’ can have completely different connotations. Before the place setting became popular around 1700, people brought their own spoons to the table, carrying them in the same way that people today carry wallet and keys. In pre-modern times, ownership of a silver spoon was an indication of social class, denoting membership in the land-owning classes.