We teamed up with Assembly Gatherings again earlier this year which is a community for creative women in Northern Ireland. Their first event was actually a new concept they’re calling seasonal ‘Sessions’. Read on for a special interview with the Founder, Mel Wiggins. Find out what was on the menu, her top tips for setting a table for a crowd and how she used the new samphire collection from Falcon...
Can you tell us a bit about Assembly Gatherings? When and how did it start?
It started in October 2016, when I tentatively invited a few creative Northern Irish women that I admired online to join me for dinner in an apple orchard in Co. Armagh; a night that saw us feast under the heaving branches of the apple tress as the cold Autumn air started to nip. I partnered with local women in catering and styling to plan an evening of glorious food, beautiful styling, making and sharing around a campfire. There were women there from all kinds of paths – both hobby and career creatives: writers, café owners, artists, designers, photographers. There was magic in the air the night that Assembly was born because we all came a little nervous, a little unsure, but left having made new friends, new cheerleaders and feeling a little less alone on our creative paths.
From there, Assembly has continued to gather women. We have hosted over 100 women for dinners in barns and breweries; learned new skills together as we supported other women leading us in workshops and we have huddled around tables and campfires across the country to share about what we do; our hopes and fears. It has been an amazing privilege to plan our Gatherings and see the foundations laid to a community that is growing not just in numbers, but in desire and courage.
How did your recent Assembly session go?
In 2018, Assembly launched some new elements to what it offers women here in Ireland by hosting seasonal ‘Sessions’ and developing a Members Community. Sessions are smaller events, four times a year that are just as beautiful as our big Gatherings but move things deeper to explore both the practical and the soulful side of creative living. Sessions equip women to be clear and courageous on their creative path, providing a safe space to learn, reflect and talk through their ideas. At our first Session we explored how we experience creative fear, how our inner critic can hold us back and how we can minimise these things in order to do the work that we feel brings out our truest self.
It was a beautiful and powerful afternoon as we did meditations to relax into the workshop, feasted, journalled and learned together about our common fears.
What was on the menu?
Lorna Mills of Tacacucina/Taca Works, one of our most faithful Assembly attendees catered the Session for us and completely spoiled us with the most delicious fresh salads; Butternut squash, freekeh, feta and pomegranate salad, Moroccan carrot, blood orange and pistachio salad, sweetheart cabbage and kale slaw. It was all served with beautiful local breads and homemade dips like labneh with dukkah and olive oil, green harissa and cannellini bean dip and beetroot hummus. Divine.
For dessert we had a selection of cakes: pistachio olive oil cake, pineapple upside down cake and a gorgeous vegan chocolate tarte. Assembly always takes great care to provide food that is locally, seasonally and sustainably sourced and feasting together at the table is a huge part of what we do and how we connect.
How did you use Falcon Enamelware?
We loved using bits from the new Samphire Green range to compliment the tablescape of the session, including Falcon tumblers at each place setting for cold drinks. They really set off the place settings and offered something different than a standard glass and got quite a lot of comments from attendees!
We used the beautiful serving trays to serve the salads in on the buffet table and they worked perfectly for everyone to help themselves from.
How would you recommend preparing a tablescape for large numbers?
Although I am not a styling expert, I think the key to setting tables for large numbers at events like Assembly is to keep it simple by adding layers to the settings, building up rather than out. You want people to have ample room for enjoying their meal but still feel like their place is set with attention to detail. I also like to mix settings up for texture using ceramic and enamel or even high quality eco-disposable items like palm leaf which adds a nice earthy detail on tables (and saves on washing up at the end of a long event)! If you have large numbers, it’s probably best to keep table styling quite minimal so not to crowd the table, especially at an event like Assembly where we want to encourage conversation and not have too many barriers to that. Grace Campbell (Grace & Saviour Event Stylist) who has worked with me on previous Assembly tables would usually suggest simple candles of a variety of sizes and bits of greenery for the Assembly table – it’s elegant and doesn’t take away from the community feel we are trying to foster.
What does Assembly have planned for the rest of the year?
2018 is a big year of leaps for Assembly as we have introduced our Seasonal Sessions and look forward to our big Spring/Summer Gathering in May. We have also launched a Members Community for women who want a bit of a built in supportive and creative girl-gang. Throughout the year there will be opportunities for members to collaborate, to meet up, learn from experts through live online workshops and to come together to collectively and practically support a project or charity that empowers women in need locally or globally. There is a real appetite for women here to be together and to stretch and grow and I look forward to being able to facilitate space for some of that with Assembly.
For the Assembly Gatherings website click here.