Autumn community feast of conversation
May 22, 2018
It was ambient lighting, plates and cutlery as mismatched as the patrons, and a menu not of food but conversation starters, which brought Newtown residents together.
More than 30 total strangers met at the Newtown Community and Cultural Centre theatre on Thursday night, for a community dinner. The conversation menu dinner featured a list of intimate and philosophical questions designed to elicit frank discussion between strangers. No question was too personal and topics included childhood experiences, relationships, politics, hopes and fears.
The event was organised by Amy Austin. The Island Bay School deputy principal first attended a conversation dinner organised by the School of Life in London over 10 years ago. She enjoyed it so much she decided to bring the event series to Wellington, settling in the Newtown Community and Cultural Centre five years ago.
“[It’s about] helping people have more honest conversations and tackling more difficult conversations. “It’s a nice way to connect links within my community.”
After a hesitant start, guests seemed to shed their apprehensions and drop attempts at the usual small talk. Instead they discussed their childhood heroes and hometown memories over entrées. Many had heard about the event through volunteering with Timebank.
Marion Leighton enjoyed how it offered the opportunity to meet other locals. “I joined [Timebank] to get to know people different from me and joining that up with food…,” was a great idea she said.
Similarly, Sofia Robinson enjoyed the unpredictable nature of the evening and meeting a diverse group of people. “[The dinner] gives you a chance to meet people you might not normally meet.”
Some came in groups, like Greta Borren who brought along her two flatmates to the dinner. “[It’s] odd to have these quite deep conversations without knowing what people do for a living,” she said.
Her flatmate Laura Keown [spelling correct] enjoyed the dinner but said it was hard to stick to the questions on the conversation menu. “They inevitably send you off on a tangent.”