The photography site for sore eyes. With extra writing because I'm also a writer.
They bring a new meaning to the phrase ‘cafe culture’. Like no other cafe ever, Hunt & Darton serve up hot food and drinks with a sprinkling of art, dollops or irony and a slice of the bizarre.
Packed full of kitsch and loaded with self-deprecation, the H&D Cafe is a rarity in art – a project you want to revisit again and again.
From the slightly retro feel of the decor (think of all those dog ornaments every granny owns, all in one place) to the mismatching tables and chairs, H&D quickly draw you in with all the absurdly unique elements of cafe which Starbucks and Costa will never be able to offer.
When you add in the slightly camp philosophy of customer service and the genuine warmth the hosts and the other staff offer, you’ve got a genuinely unique experience on your hands.
You get cajoled into playing games. They talk to you. Ask you to make statements. And it’s not like being singled for being naughty. You find yourself wanting to be part of the show.
H&D are a live art comedy act who serve you bacon sandwiches. They are fine art school graduates. You get the feeling they just fell into the comedy. And this cafe is the result of a seven-year collaboration. As someone once didn’t quite say: Even if you don’t know much about art, you’ll like it.
The main idea of this pop-up project is to engage the community with art. They hope to increase artistic activity within this community as a result.
One of the best bits is that they commission (as in pay) local artists to work with them in the cafe. This is brilliant on so many levels, not least that local performers get paid. They also get the chance to engage with an audience they would not normally make contact with.
I met two thirds of Manchester group Eggs Collective on my Manchester visit. With the kind of irony Hunt & Darton have honed, Eggs Collective duo Sara Cocker and Lowri Evans put on a mesmerising lo-fi performance of age bingo and pancake tennis. Like I said, cafe culture like no other.
H&D should be a franchise. Every town and city in Britain would be better off. What could be better than a coffee chain you could be proud of visiting?
Hunt and Darton are Jenny Hunt and Holly Darton.
The Hunt & Darton Cafe, near Piccadilly Train Station until March 23 and then popping up all over the country, including Preston for one day April 18, (opening times and future appearances at huntanddartoncafe.com). Part of the Sick! Festival.
H&D continue their countrywide tour over the next few months. Visit http://huntanddartoncafe.com to see where you can experience the art of cafe culture.
UPDATE: Hunt & Darton will be taking over Korova Arts Cafe & Bar in Preston on Saturday, April 18, daytime. Plus, they are hosting events in the same venue that evening. Korova on Twiiter: @KorovaArts
Garry Cook, March 2015