Bread making and stories with Lancaster artist

A self-styled theatre chef hopes his new book combining a baking class with migrants stories will be a recipe for success.
Leo Burtin presenting with bread, the show on which his book is based. Photo by Garry Cook.Leo Burtin presenting with bread, the show on which his book is based. Photo by Garry Cook.
Leo Burtin presenting with bread, the show on which his book is based. Photo by Garry Cook.

When the pandemic forced Leo Burtin to cancel his show tour – with bread - commissioned by Lancaster Arts, he decided to produce a book about it instead.

And as banana bread recipes have been revealed as one of the top Google searches for 2021, his timing is perfect.

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Just like the show, the book celebrates the place where the history of bread meets individual and personal histories of migrants living in Greater Manchester, Leeds and Stockton-on-Tees. It is a celebration of diversity, difference and community.

In the live performance, the audience would have taken part in making flatbreads to be served, along with a seasonal stew, at the end of the evening, while in the book these stories are combined with a recipe for pain azyme to allow the reader to recreate the bread that would have been made in the show. “Bread is a powerful starting point for a writer,” said Leo, an artist, writer and creative producer based for many years in Lancaster.

“It is such a simple food, and yet it hides so many rich stories. I love that everyone I meet has something to say about it too, and I can’t wait to hear what the readers will have to share.”

In a combination of script from the original show and personal stories by guest artists told in poetry, prose and pictures, with bread traces the journey of this staple and symbolic food from prehistory to Brexit Britain, via biblical times and the Arab Spring.

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Leo said: “When the pandemic forced us to stop the show tour in its tracks, we knew it would be impossible to move such an interactive and intimate experience online.

“Instead, we took our time and created a publication that reflects what we wanted to do with the show: to bring people together over food to have complicated conversations.”

with bread is available directly from or from all major retailers. The hardback costs £15 and the paperback is priced £7.

with bread was originally commissioned by Lancaster Arts, and developed with support from ARC Stockton & Lyth Arts Centre. It received additional support from the University of Leeds, the Lowry and the University of Salford. It also received funding from Arts Council England.

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Leo Burtin is currently a postgraduate researcher at Leeds University investigating the intersection of performance and food studies. Since 2012, he has developed pieces that gently, poetically and playfully disrupt the overtly familiar act of sharing food. As a writer, he has contributed to publications including The Guardian and the Sick of the Fringe. Leo is co-artistic director of Making Room and was the first food artist in residence at Manchester Jewish Museum.