Bompas & Parr introduce Canvas of Crumbs: The Reading Biscuit Experience

Sam and Harry of Bompas & Parr. Photo by Stefan Braun

Harry and Sam of Bompas & Parr. Photo by Stefan Braun

Whether you’re a cruncher, a crumbler or a dunker, we can all agree you can’t beat a good biscuit.

And that’s one of the reasons I’m so excited for Canvas of Crumbs: The Reading Biscuit Experience. The other reason, and it’s a biggie, is because it’s been put together by the wonderful wizards of food, Bompas & Parr.

Where do you even begin when trying to describe Bompas & Parr? They’ve made a name for themselves by creating amazing, unique experiences based around food, including the Alcoholic Architecture project which saw guests walk into a cloud of breathable cocktail. I know.

This weekend Bompas & Parr bring their fantastic frivolity to Reading, for Reading Year of Culture, to celebrate the biscuit heritage of Huntley & Palmers. Canvas of Crumbs is running on Saturday and Sunday (18-19 June) at Reading Town Hall and it’s a free event so go go go, and enjoy the biscuity goodness! (Free tickets can be booked here).

If you need any more convincing other than the two words – BISCUIT EXPERIENCE – here’s Sam Bompas who took part in a Q&A just for Broadsheet Boutique. Enjoy!

Biscuit photos by Nathan Ceddia and Bompas & Parr

Biscuit photos by Nathan Ceddia and Bompas & Parr

You are renowned for your innovative and exciting experiences. How do you come up with such original ideas?

We draw a fair bit of inspiration from history. Bags of time is spent in the London Library checking out historic cookery books – Alexis Soyer is one of our food idols. He was a Victorian version of Jamie Oliver, with books, magazines, products, restaurants and celebrity fans. He also created the world’s most fantastic restaurant which included ice caves with stuffed foxes, mirror chambers, London’s first cocktail bar, a medieval banqueting hall for 2000 and a grotto which you had to go through a waterfall to enter. We have one of the country’s best culinary libraries ourselves as well. But we keep our eyes open for technological, scientific, biological and other discoveries that can enchant our world through clever cross-pollination.

There are also many other chefs and artists we like and are inspired by though most of them are dead! These include the imperial Fernand Point, the rambunctious Peter Langan, showman P.T. Barnum and illustrator Emma Rios (the last is living!).

Your projects have a lot of theatre about them – how important is it that you give your visitors a unique and memorable experience?

It’s essential – everyone relates to food and drink and experiences it everyday, so our role is to make food and drink interactions stand out. That’s when the theatricality is important, but our installations typically draw in multiple other disciplines, like history, science, art, engineering etc, and involve unpredictable collaborators – all of those together help make something more memorable.

How do you know how far to push the boundaries, and have you ever tried anything that’s gone a bit too bonkers?

I guess creating the world’s biggest jelly (which weighed 50 tonnes) around the SS Great Britain, a historic ship, was one of our greatest challenges and something we’re enormously proud of. There was no budget to speak of but the idea was so punchy that it had to happen.

We provided all the ingredients free of charge but knew we’d have to have a lot of manhours to make it happen. The guys at the museum said they had it covered. When we arrived onsite we were introduced to the people who were going to help us make the world’s largest jelly – all ex-prisoners doing their community service! One had a scar right the way across his face and was called Hammer as he’d killed someone with a hammer. He was a mighty jelly maker!


 What made you want to come and create an experience in Reading?

It’s amazing the food history that you come across. Everyone knows about Melton Mowbray pork pies or Cornish pasties, but Reading’s biscuit history, and with biscuits clear role in our national psyche, seemed relatively unknown, so we were delighted to be able to bring this to life and help its history live another day.

Let’s talk biscuits! How challenging was it to come up with an experience based on biscuits?

With the rich cultural heritage of biscuits and the intricate designs of some of our favourite biscuits – just think of the elaborate finishes on everything from Custard Creams to Malted Milks – we thought this experience presented an opportunity to draw together the history and design of biscuits in a biscuit production line that pays tribute to the unloved but ultimately revolutionary concept of mass production that has spread British biscuits’ fame far and wide.


 Do you have a favourite biscuit?

I’ve always thought that the Malted Milk was much underrated – its design and taste transports me back to a past era.

 Dunking biscuits in tea – yes or no?

Absolutely, it’s a fine art!

 Biscuits or cake?

 Both have their place at the teatime table!

Without giving too much away of course, can you give us a hint of what visitors in Reading can expect from Canvas of Crumbs?

 We hope people enjoy designing and finishing their own biscuit, in the knowledge that they are playing a role in perpetuating Reading’s biscuit heritage. Best of all, they’ll be creating a piece of artwork that they can eat!


One response to “Bompas & Parr introduce Canvas of Crumbs: The Reading Biscuit Experience

  1. Pingback: The Bompas & Parr Biscuit Experience |·

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