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Chelsea Fringe | secret garden projects

April 6, 2012

It was around about this time last year that I discovered a Spontaneous City in a Tree Heaven, mere minutes from the studio where I was working.  It was glowing golden in the sun and growing on a magic faraway tree in Duncan Terrace Gardens in Angel.

An elaborate and eccentric bird box of epic proportions, it was the wondrous wood work of the Secret Garden Project.  It’d been carefully crafted in consultation with ecologists to make it good for home-making wildlife and good for the tree – the design allows the tree to continue to grow and expand.  It was my dream home.

It’s with much excitement then that UP Projects – a non-profit public art commissioning agency based in Shoreditch and the brain behinds the Spontaneous City – are to be involved with the Chelsea Fringe.  Here, assistant curator Laura Harford explains how and why they’re getting involved.

“For the inaugural year of the Chelsea Fringe, we’re signing up our Secret Garden Project of temporary art commissions and pop-up arts events for lesser known green spaces. We initiated the project in 2010, with the aim of offering emerging and established artists opportunities to respond to, and raise awareness of, the ecological and social value of green spaces in city life” says Laura.

The Secret Garden Project has a number of live projects at the moment including a beautiful floating island garden in City Road Basin in Islington created by internationally renowned contemporary artist Tania Kovats.  It attracts moorhens, geese and ducks, and is planted with wildflower meadow plants that are sympathetic to a watery environment.

“We have other Secret Garden Projects in the pipeline, including an exciting new project for Tooting Common in Wandsworth working with artist Jacques Nimki” says Laura.  “He’ll  be uncovering the secret history and hidden ecological aspects of  the Common in terms of both wildlife and botanical species, working closely with local volunteers. Check back to our website for more info soon!

The ‘Spontaneous City in the Tree of Heaven’ was designed by London Fieldworks, who made two large sculptural habitats that wrap around two different trees (one in Duncan Terrace Gardens, Islington and one in Cremorne Gardens, Kensington and Chelsea) of a Chinese species called the ‘Tree of Heaven’.  The design of each structure reflects the architectural designs of the housing adjacent to each park.

Have any birds or bugs moved in? “We’ve certainly seen many insects crawling inside the installations – and plenty of pesky squirrels trying to get in! The birds are a little more discerning but over time we’re sure they will take up residence” says Laura.

“For HABITAT (Tania Kovats’ Floating Garden), installation and maintenance has proved somewhat more challenging” admits Laura.  “We worked closely with nearby Islington Boat Club, and their youth group were involved in workshops during the development of the sculpture.  They also helped Tania plant the garden and tug it into place in the middle of the canal. They often assist us with getting to the artwork to maintain it and help nurture the plants, but when the canal freezes over we have a bigger challenge on our hands.”

For ‘Bee Stop’ – a green roof above a Persian supermarket on Holloway Road – artist Margot Bannerman has worked with  Aldingbourne  Nurseries to select plants to create a mini meadow.  It’s planted with resilient nectar rich wildflowers that are attractive to bees, as well as to passersby.

So why has UP decided to make the Secret Garden Project part of the Fringe?  “We love the ethos of the Chelsea Fringe! It embodies similar principles to the Secret Garden Project.  And we like the way you’re encouraging more people to be outside enjoying green spaces and growing their own food and flowers for a more sustainable way of living.”

“There are so many people doing fantastic things all across London independently, and this festival will connect them together to make them easily accessible and raise awareness that gardens are fun!”

Enough said.

This feature was originally written for the Chelsea Fringe website – I’m their official blogger!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. timaldiss permalink
    April 8, 2012 9:46 pm

    Ooh – exciting. Looking forward to Chelsea Fringe greatly 🙂

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