The Stove was created by Emma Brand to bring people together. Through the intense lockdown of March-June, around once a week a group of strangers gathered together to share stories and a meal over the internet.
A small group of six, including Brand herself, gather on Zoom. The joys of this medium (‘you’re on mute’) we share, as our kindly host begins her tale. Brand starts us off with charming anecdotes of family games of Blackjack – bouncing off one another we then each reveal a snippet of our own childhoods and a fondness for food comes out as a shared passion.
I thought I would feel self-conscious in this format, but it is a testament to Brand that we all feel safe enough to share tender moments of our lives with complete strangers. The crackling fire effect in Brand’s background creates a safe bubble of white noise and reflection, and amiable strangers talk within it.
After not too long we leave the stove and explore the village and woodland beyond it. A welcome respite from the city of London where I have been trapped for some months now; I enjoy the description of sights and smells that deviate from the norm of pollution. Our group winds through the undergrowth and shares what may be hidden within.
Culminating in a meal akin to a scene from C.S. Lewis we share bowls of food over our webcams. Grapes, chips and halloumi salads all have pride of place in this eclectic picnic. I only wish I could have experienced this in person. Surrounded by newly familiar strangers we each share anecdotes between small bites and slices. I feel as if I have fallen into the movie Hook. Robin Williams is told to ‘imagine’ the food in front of him and a magnificent feast beyond anyone’s wildest dreams appears – together in a woodland clearing this unique group of stove visitors conjure up the same atmosphere and sense of childlike wonder.
Over our 75 minutes together I feel a great sense of calm and nostalgia. Despite my young age, I am still far removed from my storybooks filled with dragons and princesses. Together with Brand we escape our reality for a while and dream together and, I must say, it is pretty beautiful. Jumping back into the tales of Grimm, Anderson or Blyton we find adventure in our own living rooms. Quite unlike any piece I have taken part in before, Brand creates a magical world of comfort for all to share.
The Stove runs until 16th August. Tickets are available from the Electric Dreams website.