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  • Writer's pictureRae Story

In the company of Trees

Tuesday 28th June was the final Birchfield's Park walk and the last of Rae's art walks with TLC.

The theme of the walk was trees because this park is home to some beautiful trees. Before Rae started with the Art Project in 1995 Alison lead art walks around the estate where St Luke's was based and beyond exploring the local trees and what they meant to local people. The project was carried out with Red Rose Forest (now City of Trees). The walks generated art work, poems, memories, meditations and photography. Alison created a magazine of all the material with Marc the Printers. During my time at St Luke's Art Project (now TLC) I have always loved that publication with its recycled paper and home-made feel. In many ways it was the blue-print for SlapDash Publications and all of our subsequent work. The themes of trees, nature, field trips, drawings, photography, poetry and creation of publications have been the essence of what we have done over the last 30 years. So in many ways it felt like this activity brought the project full circle.

Scanned Images from Local Trees, Local People by Alison Kershaw 1995

Please click on the images to see enlarged.

We met at the usual place and everyone confidently arrived now having a much more familiar sense of where that was and a better mental map of the whole park. We had a great turn out with ten people attending and joining in. We began by making beak books, this is a technique learned from Lucy May Schofield which is always a delight because it is simple yet so effective. Using one page of A4 you can create a mini book with 6 spreads and a front and back cover.

Images 1+2 (from left) by Rae

Image3 far right by Bernadette O'hanrahan

Chung said it was like origami! We folded and created our little books and then set off, the brief was that we would stop beside interesting trees and give ourselves two minutes to sketch the tree in front of us. These quick little drawings prevent us from getting too caught up in trying to make a perfect picture or lost in the details. Although difficult to begin with everyone got the hang of these little 'tree poses' and the results are just delightful. We shared what we knew about the trees and agreed it didn't matter if we didn't know the names, we can still recognise and appreciate their shapes and personalities and greet them all the same.

Top row left to right: Mr Riding, Rae, Paul B,

Middle from left to right: Annette Ebanks, Brian Clewlow, Murial

Bottom row left to right: Annette Ebanks, Mr Riding and Bernadette O'hanrahan.

In a relatively small space we managed to sketch a variety of interesting trees, we all learned something from one another about the different trees - their names, where they were from, something special about them. We got used to seeing their overall shape and the formation of the branches and leaves. The time went fast, we encircled the forest garden and looked at what had changed since we were last there, across the lime tree boulevard stopping to appreciate the scent of the beautiful blossoms that were in perfect show, over the little stream and on to Wynn's Walk.

Video by Rae

Along the way people shared other artwork they have been making at home and talked about different trips that we had done together. Everyone was excited to be off to the RHS the following week and we finished by sharing our beak books and we set off homewards in different directions, this time everyone knew where they were going and had got a real sense of their orientation. Hopefully this familiarity will lead to more people visiting the park themselves with friends and family or on their own to join the bee walk or do some litter picking or just for a stroll and enjoying their local green space.

From one participant:

I had a really enjoyable afternoon:

· spending time in the company of people I hadn’t seen for months;

· discovering a park I’d never been to before;

· feeling the softness of the grass beneath my feet:

· hearing the steady trickle of Gore Brook, the cawing of crows in the trees above and the sounds of nearby traffic like ocean surf in the background;

· exploring the diversity of the natural world around us;

· forgetting the cares and the stresses I’d been carrying with me;

· wondering at the simultaneous simplicity and complexity of each moment.

Brian and his Collage Hearts

With many thanks to our friends at Birch Community Centre for use of your facilities.

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