Monday, 26 August 2013

The Rose Garden

The Rose Garden

Spode Factory's Rose Garden is a once grand Victorian green space which sits at the side factory entrance on Kingsway in Stoke Town. It is hard to find an exact date for the Rose Garden, but all the architectural clues point to mid-late 19th Century.

Today, the space, which since the dissolution of the Spode site is owned and managed by the City Council, looks a little shabby, behind
its padlocked iron gates. There are few rose bushes left, and the most ubiquitous plant type is the thistle. There is a huge weeping willow tree which, while impressive and attractive, has outgrown its aspect and shrouds the beautiful, stately exterior of the China Hall. The site has the saddened feel of the once proud and now neglected and ignored.

The Rose Garden project seeks to make a change to the space. A transformation with a nod to its former glory, but with an emphasis on looking towards a positive creative future.

For the last two years, the British Ceramics Biennial has been reactivating the Spode site, with a celebration of the contemporary ceramic situation in the city and the country, both functional, and artistic. One of the aspects of the BCB's output and vision that has really impressed us is its endeavours to identify a positive future for the ceramics industry in a world situation where the vast majority of mass-production happens in the Far East. Through a series of works which have sought to examine past experience and analyse the contemporary status quo, the focus has always been on finding answers for the future success of the industry.

It is this forward-looking focus which inspires The Rose Garden, AirSpace Gallery's contribution to BCB 2013. We are offering a proposal. A proposal for a future transformation. For the 2013 exhibition, we will be completely transforming a segment of the Rose Garden which will then act as a proposal for a complete transformation of the whole space for 2015, which, if all goes well, will be the International Year of Ceramics.

We have identified and marked out a large wedge-shaped area which we will be weeding, digging, forking over and raking. We'll be pruning, cutting back and shaping. We'll be cleaning and jet-washing. And in the middle of the marked-out space, we'll be building a circular raised bed, the centre piece of which will be a beautiful ceramic rose.

The ceramic rose is the centre-piece of our proposal, as it will stand in for what we hope will be a real rose. We are aiming to work with a local rose breeder to develop a new rose for the space.  We are proposing that the new rose, which we hope to name "The Spode China Rose", will be grown on over the next year and will be planted  throughout the Rose Garden in Autumn 2014, so that they will have completely repopulated the space by the next instalment of the British Ceramics Biennial in September 2015.

The project builds on the same themes of place-making, and re-population of degenerated urban space that the Gallery's "Bird Yarden" project covered in Spring this year. There is no real reason for the Rose Garden to remain unused and overgrown. It could become a beautiful active space for the town of Stoke and the City as a whole. The centre piece of the project is the development of the new rose. Through exploring and talking about the process of development, the hereditary aspects, and the birth of the new rose, and then the introduction of the new rose to the old space, we are hoping to start a dialogue about the reactivation of unused urban spaces, and the positive future for the ceramics industry in the city and for the city as a whole. This is a project about activation and activism. It's about not complaining that things are wrong or are not happening. It's about making a change. It's about repopulation, and most importantly, it's about looking forwards to a successful future.

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