Launched in May 2019, Birchfield Big Local and Welsh House Farm Big Local have been working on a joint project – Hard Times Require Furious Dancing – funded through the Creative Civic Change Programme. The project has focused on the creative use of open spaces in both Big Local areas. In Birchfield this has included Lyndon Close and Brackley Avenue where artist and gardener Faith Pearson has been working with residents to reclaim open spaces for children’s play and other activities that help bring the community together.
Here Faith talks about the work at Brackley Avenue. “Of all the places I have ever worked as a community artist Brackley Avenue is my favourite. The reason is the people. There are twenty-five children on this tiny avenue and through this project we have managed to make a real change for them. They have helped at every step of the way: pruning, sweeping, painting, planting, moving rubbish. They wanted furniture, so we got some pallets and built furniture. Together we have doubled the space available for them to play safely. Where there was once an overgrown rubbish dump, now there is a mud kitchen and gated play space, a wildflower walkway, and a seating area with edible planting. We began our journey with conversations about rubbish and fly tipping which is a constant problem. However, I have had conversations with the next generation who can see how they can make a difference when they work together. The reports are of children using the space in all weathers before and after school. I hope that they will remember the changes that they’ve made and how they visualised their environment and made it happen – because I won’t forget it. It has been a magical journey.”
The next phase of the project at Brackley Avenue is the planting of Lavatera – tall pink flowering shrubs – along the fence and the sowing of wildflower seeds which will create swathes of colour. A planting day as part of Creative Civic Change was held on Saturday 20th November where herbs, bulbs, strawberries, garlic, and flowers were planted in the new planters and seats. Residents also refreshed pots from last year so everyone has a wildflower pot. Faith will be running a planting day at two sites in Welsh House Farm on the same theme – linking trees using colourful swathes of hardy wildflowers and creating a “mother garden” that can be used as a source of cuttings.