Saturday, 25 August 2012

The OPEN YARDEN @ AirSpace

The OPEN YARDEN event which took place on Saturday 4th August 2012 officially launched the Airspace Creative Urban Yarden.
See the previous blog post for more about our intentions for the Yarden in the year ahead, and visit the Facebook group here
One corner of The Yarden, showing the concrete 'stage' area where the out-house one stood
The Inspiration to develop our ‘Yarden’ at the gallery came from a combined group interest in growing, amongst some of the studio artists based at Airspace gallery. Many of us utilise our yards and have many plants growing in raised beds or containers. The term ‘Yarden’ developed through our conversations.

The Yard area at Airspace Gallery has gradually become a growing space which we have all added to with ad hoc growing solutions in temporary raised beds and containers. We also now have a raised concrete corner stage area, where one stood a problematic (crumbling) out-house that housed a family of rats. The project will continue to be developed this autumn and winter, with myself (Kate Lynch) taking the lead role a creative design process to utilise the yard space and surface of the walls with vertical growing solutions, the planning of raised beds and plants & veg to grow will also happen during this time.
Some vertical growing is already taking place- Tiered second-hand planters (from the local carboot) tied together with string. Planters contain mixed salad, Mitzuna (oriental salad) rocket, wild rocket, lollo rosa lettuce (all pick-and-come-again salad crops) & some radish.
The Yarden will become a hub space offering resources and creative & practical workshops and will act as a demo Yarden, to inspire others. The Yarden is part of a contemporary art gallery and the emphasis with the solutions and growing schemes within the space will be centred on visual art & creativity offering space for outdoor performance, events, workshops and art installations.

We are also increasingly inspired by the growing of wildflowers which are taking over the many derelict sites nearby the gallery in the city centre, and hope to provide a resource hub within the gallery & Yarden, a space for discussion and exploration of these sites which will include nature spotting and plant identification walks on the gallery’s doorstep.

These sites have been monitored by us wildlife lovers for many years and I think the areas in close proximity of the gallery have really taken off this year, providing an abundance of useful and beneficial plants for those who know what to look for, and of course the local wildlife is flourishing in these sites as eco systems continue to develop. We are interested in how these sites could be developed in different ways- Some could simply become designated wildlife reserves and I’d love to design some info boards to sit amongst these sites containing info of the species seen and spotted there as there are an abundance of beneficial wild flowers and insects thriving within these sites, right in the city centre.

There are many disused plots in the city, due to housing clearance and de-industrialisation, this project would aim to explore how these spaces can become useful, sustainable wildlife havens, and spaces where education about growing and creativity can take place, with an overall aim of Improving the inner-city environment and wellbeing of people living in the area. I think this can be a benefit and asset to the city- along with its many parks Stoke-on-Trent could really become a beacon of sustainability and green activity. 
Weld, a plant that can be used to create a natural Yellow dye, growing on the old ABC cinema site, Hanley. I have collected seeds from this plant and will grow them next year in the 'dyers patch' in the Yarden.
We are therefore entering into a long term project which will eventually expand from the walls of our Yarden to potentially take over some of the surrounding derelict sites for creative city centre growing schemes- through the activity of the URBAN GARDEN NETWORK which will include seasonal workshops and info sharing to empower groups and individuals to take steps to set up their own inner city garden projects utilising reclaimed land.

So the Yarden played host to its first visitors on Saturday and kick started the URBAN GARDEN NETWORK. Within the Gallery, local growers and individuals from community garden projects came along to showcase their produce, providing info about their projects and creating a space for these groups and individuals to meet and discuss.

The first URBAN GARDEN NETWORK event, hosted at AirSapce Gallery
 This also offered the public the chance to along and learn how they can get involved in both the Creative Urban Yarden at Airspace and other growing projects in the City as many of the local projects are recruiting for volunteers. The layout of the network event was split into allocated wall spaces and tables, allotments if you like. Some of the spaces contained info and produce, whilst others offered hands-on-workshops exploring creative growing and guerrilla gardening.

Ecological Artist Su Hurrell's seed mix packets- For Guerrilla Gardening
The Wildflower seed bomb workshop (Kate Lynch) had its 4th outing and taught a method for making a seed bomb to enable people to spread wildflower seeds on otherwise inaccessible areas- seed bombs can be chucked, placed or planted. The theme of  ‘Make your mark on the future landscape’ highlighted the fact that this sort of growing activity is something that we can all do to improve our local areas such as wasteland and dis-used space in back Yardens. 

The 'Wild Flower Seed Bomb Worskshop'
The Moss graffiti demo (Kate Lynch & Ben Popple) was an experimental workshop to create a living green sign for the Yarden, using a moss and yogurt mixture to paint pre-cut lettering. We are currently experimenting with the Moss graffiti technique, trying the method on different porous surfaces such as wood, corrugated cardboard and directly onto wall surfaces. Adults and Kids enjoyed painting with the green slime we created- it didn’t smell too bad either. Thanks to all who got involved with the process. We will keep you updated about the progress of our moss sign- we can’t wait to see it begin to grow in the meantime the mixture we made needs re-applying to the lettering every few days, with lots of misting with a water sprayer needed in between, to keep it in good damp condition for the moss to take hold and grow.
Moss Graffiti-Yarden sign making

Ecological Artist Su Hurrell came along to showcase her practice and delivered a paper plant pot making workshop which tied in nicely with our plant swap table, people could make a paper plant pot and then go outside to transplant small lettuce and rocket seedlings to grow on in a sunny windowsill at home- for fresh pick-and-come- again salad pickings.

Ecological Artist Su Hurrell offered a paper plant pot and seed planting workshop

The plant and seed swap went really well.
Some of the new additions to the Yarden that came in via the plant swap:
Mallow from Su Hurrell
Tomato plant & flowers from Deb Rogers
Courgette from Anna Francis
Rosemary from Kate Lynch
French Beans & Mange tout from Kate Lynch
A gorgeous old sage (tree-like!)Plant from Jane Howie
Leeks from the Staffordshire University Community Allotment.
Dahlia & Lettuce from Farm2Grow 
Plant swap table
Seeds for swapping and planting also were donated by Fiona Waddle, Tom Ward, and Adam Gruning- I will look forward to sowing and growing these in the Yarden next spring.

Packed seeds were brought along for seed-swapping
Jayne Fair came along to promote ‘Status Grow’ and brought with her an array of handmade items including lavender bouquets and sachets made from dried herbs- a good example of the produce that can be created from plants and herbs. 
Lavender & Bay bouquets
Jayne had an abundance of ideas relating to useful plants to grow. I liked her idea of using pine cones as bird feeders- by coating them in lard and dipping in bird seed- a seasonal workshop to promote our Yarden Birds?- although not one for the vegetarians amongst us perhaps, but I’m sure the birds would appreciate it.
The event also launched my ARTea project which aims to promote the use of selected herbs which promote creativity and provide a healthy tasting experience, an alternative to the traditional English cuppa.The herb planters have been planted and nurtured in my own Yarden this year and it was a pleasure to have visitors picking from them and enjoying their tea making & tasting experience.

The 'ARTea' Installation - Picking herbs for Tea making
Kids and adults alike enjoyed the herbal teas. I intend to roll this idea out in the Yarden and beyond, growing designated herb patched containing selected herbs that are linked to creativity,  offering visitors the chance to pick their own in a performance based  experience and having an ARTea to accompany their art viewing at Gallery…Follow my blog here  for more on this project and future developments.
The inspiration area back inside the gallery included a slideshow of research images intended to provide inspiration to visitors. This was compiled by Ben Popple who researches and practices permaculture design & principles. Ben and I have travelled the length and breadth of the country this year (or so it seems!) In a VW transporter, attending workshops, visiting individuals and eco-communities and some inspirational growing spaces (both rural and inner city), returning to Stoke-on-Trent to put the ideas we have seen into practice here. We have also bought many plants and herbs back from these spaces, some of which are to be planted in the Yarden in future schemes. The slideshow showcased some interesting Yarden solutions and designs for inner city spaces and contained some images of successful moss graffiti projects too.

Slideshow & Yarden Library
 The Yarden Library made its first appearance, currently compiled from relevant books from our personal collections. Some kind visitors have offered some of their unwanted books and the library will grow from here. This resource will remain at Airspace Gallery and can be accessed via the Gallery’s resource room during usual gallery opening hours. The library will be mobile too and can accompany other URBAN GARDEN NETWORK meet-ups. The library currently contains books relating to the urban landscape, land reclamation in cities, small space growing solutions, plant identification and useful plants and herbs. 
The Aims of the day were to create a group where sharing of resources, materials, contacts, ideas, labour, and produce, would eventually take place. I thought it wold take time for such a network to establish to the point where we were sharing freely and enthusiastically, however this type of activity began happening straight away. Thanks to everyone who came along and shared contacts, ideas, plants, seeds, produce, time…  
Clearing the weeds from between the cobbles. The whole Yarden got done! Great work
The space at the end of the day- with comments left on the 'your ideas' wall
I suggested to those who attended that we formed the URBAN GARDEN NETWORK immediately, and we established that the network will exist on-line in a blog format that invited members of the network can update at any time.  
We decided that The URBAN GARDEN NETWORK needs to exist on-line and in quarterly open days such as this one, in order to gain a sense of real-time community, one-to-one conversations and hands-on learning. Visit to hear more about the network and how to get involved.

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