No Such Thing is a framework for conversation between 2 people who might not otherwise meet: an ephemeral encounter between strangers, shaped, experienced, and remembered by those 2 people alone.
No Such Thing began in 2012. Renny O’Shea and Richard Gregory were invited to make a response to the subject of ‘hospitality’, in a non-arts space, by curators Laura Mansfield and Swen Steinhauser, for their 7 Sites project. We decided to make something in a curry café because they played such a particular role in Manchester’s city centre identity and culture. We’d lived around the corner and eaten in Kabana for 20 years…
The event was supposed to be a one-off, but we enjoyed it so much and got so much out of it that we carried on. Somehow it began to form the essence, in miniature, of everything we do as Quarantine. And so, once a month for 10 years, we invited strangers to join us for lunch and a conversation, one-to-one. We meet, we talk, we eat, we say goodbye. That’s it.
Since 2012, we’ve had around 500 conversations over 500 curries with 500 strangers. Unfamiliar faces, all with stories we’d not heard before, opinions we couldn’t predict… Each conversation lasted about half an hour – the length of time it takes to eat the food. We created a changing menu of provocations for conversation – Starters, Mains and Afters – always accompanied by a ‘Today’s Special’ from that day’s news. Like any conversation, where it goes is a complex act of cooperation and negotiation between the two people involved. Like everyday conversations, the experience can be funny, odd, interesting, controversial, informative, dull, and/or life-changing… Like most of Quarantine’s work, No Such Thing explores how we negotiate difference and find points of connection.
During the coronavirus lockdown, we took No Such Thing online and enjoyed talking to people all around the world. But we missed the in-person qualities of sitting across a table and sharing food and space with other people.
In November 2022, we created a one-off 10-year anniversary event in Kabana to celebrate a decade of making No Such Thing. Every table was occupied by a pair of people eating, talking from menus from the last 10 years. Musician Graham Massey gave a short talk on his personal history of the curry cafés of Manchester. Artist Lowri Evans hosted the event.
We want keep meeting strangers and sharing conversations, keep finding new environments, inside and outside, where No Such Thing might take place. This might be in other cafes, as a picnic in a park or in other public contexts. We’re also passing on our experience and techniques to deliver the project to interested parties and partners across the UK and internationally. If you’re interested, send a message here.