ocumented on my blog here.
Back in 2008 I was already thinking about these sites as potential community assets - and instead of regarding Brownfield Sites as eyesores, was already considering that their interim use could be much more fruitful. Then - as the sites of demolition lay untouched for a number of years, I became more and more interested in the way that the sites develop over time - and the activity that begins to happen on the sites. At first, the sites become used by people as places where usual rules are suspended, strange objects and collections begin to appear - evidence of wayward activity taking place. I documented this stage - and one image in particular - taken on the Cinema site became quite successful for me - included in a few exhibitions and as a postcard, it sold quite a number.
Back in 2012 - while in Japan, I was considering how I could start to look at, and bring others to look at the potential of the sites in relation to the plants and flowers growing there, and to bring people to recognise just how beautiful some of these sites have become.
On my return to the UK from the residency in the mountains, where I focused some of my time on learning ikebana techniques, I visited three of the larger Brownfield Sites within the City Centre of Stoke-on-Trent, with the view to create 3 Brownfield Ikebana.
The first was the Abbatoir Site:
I then returned to the gallery to turn the collected objects and weeds into Ikebana.
The other two sites which I visited were the Greyhound Track:
Alongside the Ikebana - I created a 'How To' works instruction, so that other people can make ikebana if they want to.
Where we are in 2015 - we are seeing quite a lot of these now flourishing, abundant Brownfield Sites being developed across the city - so what have been quite important interim nature havens - are slowly disappearing. The abattoir site - which was so rich and fertile, is now just a very small triangle of land between Tesco and the new Premier Inn, perhaps the triangle is a bit in between that noone knows who owns. As these sites are developed, the local, fairly newly established ecology is being upset - I have not seen a dragon fly around since the Premier Inn was built - which is a great shame. Stoke-on-Trent is said to be one of the greenest cities - and I think that the Brownfield Site has a really important role to play in that. For just over a year then, I have been thinking about how I might start to advocate that developers consider including a permanent 'Brownfield Plot' in any new schemes - incorporating these beautiful oases of green into their plans, and providing a permanent home for nature.
I developed a proposal during the 'Beneath the Pavement' project which AirSpace led on, working with the City Centre Partnership, which focuses on the idea of Brownfield Flora, as an advocacy document for working with developers. I hope to put this into practice in the coming years, and will looking for opportunities to do that. I had hoped to revisit the Brownfield Sites in the city - and see how they are developing, and was recently asked to take part in the Cryopreservation Exhibition at SYSON project space in Nottingham. Cryopreservation is an exhibition curated by Division of Laboour and looks at the rich history of man's relationship to flowers. I was really pleased to be asked to be involved - as Heather and Ivan Morison are also in the show, whose work I really admire.
This was a great opportunity to revisit Brownfield Ikebana and the 3 sites - to see how they are changing and developing.
The sites are still beautifully rich in source material and I hope to do more with the Brownfield Ikebana works in the coming year.