Thirty years after the National Garden Festival transformed the former Shelton Bar steelworks to what is now Festival Park, the Artcity partnership are creating a weekend event over 16-18 September looking back at the Festival, responsing to the site as it is now, and forward to Stoke in the future.
The Lost Gardens of Stoke is a weekend of events and activities structured around a trail that encourages visitors to explore one of Stoke’s hidden green gems.
Four artists have been commissioned to create new work in response to the site, the Festival and the city:
Ceramic Artist Jo Ayre will lead a happy band of Clay Comrades, together with the locally celebrated Flower Army. Echoing the unplanned planting of trees by local steelworkers on the site, Jo will provide the conditions for making with clay; a portable potting shed and flower barrow will roll onto site. In a nod towards the sites original development for Wedgwood’s Etruria factory, the Clay Comrades will set about clearing and organising, marking out spaces for ‘flower beds’ .
Playful and participatory, artists Lina and Hernandez invite the public to take part in an ever evolving, artwork, which bridges the gap between sculpture and play. Using their recognisable fantastical aesthetic; the artists will create a constantly shifting playground of the absurd, activated by participants. This living artwork reimagines industrial material for play equipment.
Artist and forager James Wood invites us to travel back to an archaic time, when man and woman had a connection to the land, gathering materials and tools directly from the landscape. James will run a series of walks and workshops over the weekend and replacing the supermarket by the hedgerow. We will explore the edible credentials of the site.
Poet and Sculptor Richard Redwin’s work raises serious environmental questions relevant to this post-industrial landscape. A series of creatures which are part industrial fall out and part living breathing being will inhabit the park – showing the possible results of pollution and the pillaging of the worlds’ resources on the evolution of flora and fauna. Families and children will enjoy discovering the series of creatures in unexpected locations around the site.
There will also be additional artworks and performances over the weekend- including a recreation of one street show from the 1986 Festival; newly created garden spaces; refreshments from Bread In Common; talks; and specially-created signage to navigate around the site. On Saturday 17th the programme will feature additional cultural heritage and history events, considering the impact of large scale cultural events like the Garden Festival, in order to discuss the Stoke-on-Trent bid for City of Culture 2021. On Sunday there will be a focus on activities for families.
The Lost Gardens of Stoke-on-Trent is produced by the Artcity consortium of independent arts organisations in Stoke-on-Trent: AirSpace Gallery, B Arts, Cultural Sisters, Letting In The Light, Partners in Creative Learning and Restoke, and is curated by Anna Francis