Sadly we have had to postpone planned community gardening days at the piazza due to the government announcement of national lockdown, but the planters at the piazza don’t know that and they still need some TLC. Mindful of the isolation lockdown can bring, we are happy to facilitate some covid-safe community gardening.
The Piazza was used as an example of good practice in a recent talk at the Centre of Gravity exhibition at the old Gardiner Haskins building that ended yesterday. Alternative Approaches to Architecture- working with students & communities was organised by local residents Rachel Sara, Professor of Architecture at Birmingham School of Architecture and Design and Anna Haydock-Wilson with guest speaker Thomas Sale, currently furloughed from his job as Project Manager for Don Eain, a participatory design practice in Myanmar. It was presented by Bristol Artist-Led Forum, a growing network of artists working with communities for social change, environmental improvement and increase in well-being.
Here are the presentations and documentation from the event.
As the school summer holidays draw to a close and the rainfall & XR focus our attention on climate change, let’s celebrate our local young people. This summer, led by local artist and teaching assistant, Mhairi Stuart, nearly 30 kids have adorned the piazza with their pavement art.
These activities offered local children the chance to focus on some detailed drawing but also an opportunity for lots of running around and freer expression.
We have photographed all the artwork and over the next couple of months Anna & Mhairi will carefully paint some of the images to form a winding trail through the piazza. The concrete blocks have long been in need of decorating so we’ll be using some of the design ideas the children have created for those too.
We recognise that children have had a tough time recently, so we’re offering some mindful art for local families. Led by Mhairi Stuart with Anna Haydock-Wilson and Amy Hutchings, pavement pastel and chalking will be on the following dates:
August 18, 19 & 20th 11am-12pm
Please bring an old cushion or towel for the children to kneel on and dress code is scruffy! We are fully insured and trained to work with children but we can’t take responsibility for infection spreading so please attend with your children. Bring a cuppa and relax or help with some gardening!
We will selct our favorite artworks and paint them in to create a permanant trail with some signage
The Hotwells Piazza is opposite the Rose of Denmark pub BS8 4QL and is an open public space.
We would love some help on the Piazza with weeding and watering, particularly through the summer months
On our notice board opposite the Rose of Denmark pub we have put up guidelines on how you can help. Here they are in this blog post
There are a few weeds that are particularly invasive and you can pull these up wherever you see them. Other self-seeding or wild-flower plants are great to leave as they attract bees and butterflies. If in doubt it’s best to leave them.
Over the years we have been learning which plants cope best in our urban climate and we very rarely need to water out planters, rockeries, sedum beds or rain beds, but during prolonged hot, dry spells we use the rainwater butts and occasionally put a local call out for people to bring water to the piazza
This map, by Zoe Smith, shows the garden areas that the local community, supported by Hotwells and Cliftonwood Community Association have created since 2014. The other areas are cared for by Bristol City Council.
If you would like to help with gardening, watering and litter picking we ask you to be responsible for your health in terms of protecting against the corona virus or skin allergies by wearing gloves or using hand sanitiser. Once you have pulled up weeds, please put them in our garden waste bins here. Water is available for plants from the rain butts. This is not safe for hand washing or for dogs to drink.
Here are some of the plants we have added over the years.
Many of our plants have been bought from the Riverside Garden Centre, supporting this wonderful local business. Others have been donated and scattered by locals or have self-seeded.
If you would like to plant something you are welcome. You can use an empty area of one of the planters or put something in the beds or rockeries we have created. Please be mindful that there are bulbs in the planters that need space to grow in the spring.
The Piazza is a big space and, although the planters are largely self maintaining, there is a bit of weeding, digging and watering that we’d love your help with. Throughout most of the year we have no need to water the plants, and when we do the rain butt is usually full. However, occasionally weeks can go by with no significant rain- like July 2018 and May 2020!
Mrs Wheelie Bin
Wheelie Bin Bob
During these times your help is vital and I’d like to thank Lilia & Bori, Alex, Bob, Carol, Shilpi & Faruk, Julia, Marcia & Kean (for weeding) and everyone else who has rescued a few plants for us this week by bringing water down in a variety of whatever containers!
There is finally a bit of rain in the forecast and the temperature is cooling, but as the world warms, we can expect these dry periods to be more frequent. To make sure our plants (aka pollinators and carbon emitters) can survive dry periods we are installing another rain water butt, donated by the Whale family in Southville and HCCA are looking installing an emergency water supply. We are also paying close attention to the types of plants that thrive in dry weather and planting more of them.
But local volunteers are vital to keeping the Piazza green and tidy. We’ve created some basic watering and weeding guidelines so that anyone can join in. We will put these on our new noticeboard.
If you like sociability, or need some gardening tools, or don’t feel confident to garden alone, do contact us on our Facebook page or email Anna and she will arrange company.
Guidelines for Piazza Gardening
If we have very dry periods or you notice the plants looking parched can you help water?
There is a rain butt located behind the wall pictured here- please bring a watering can or a bottle to fill, or bring water from your home if the rain butts are empty.
It is best to water plants when the sun is not on them. This is tricky at the Piazza, so early morning or late evening are the best times.
The areas that the community is responsible for are:
The Maple grove and sedum beds
The rain garden
We will be asking for help with weeding over the summer and Autumn once we have sorted out our garden waste
Unless you have a litter picker or some gloves we are not advising the public to help with this until further notice. If you do pick up litter the bins by the mural above are regularly emptied by Bristol Waste Street Cleansing team, who deserve a big thanks for all the gritty cleaning jobs in our city (below, picking up food as a thanks from Chai Shai)
We welcome ideas for improving the space and making it work for everyone. These could be painting, planting, events or enhancing children’s play. Please get in touch email@example.com
We will be posting more activities over the next couple of weeks.
Remember just before COVID-19 struck our shores? The climate crisis was finally beginning to ride a media wave and Greta came to Bristol. Now we can be grateful to have seen traffic drop to 1950s levels and images of clear skies in Delhi and Bejing, but cars will return and the skies will thicken again as people want to return to ‘normal’ life.
Back at the Cumberland Piazza we’re doing our best to maintain an attractive environment for people to safely enjoy while we all adapt to restrictions on our movements and difficulties within our lives. Just before lockdown myself and other local volunteers, most notably third year Fine Art Students from UWE, refreshed the paint work on the pillars. Katya, Josie and Clara began a new mural inspired by fungi and plants on the Hotwells Voices wall, inviting people to join- we were lucky to have artist Luke Palmer turn up with his boys
Katya and Josie are part of a growing group of students and staff at UWE who are interrogating the sustainability of materials and projects. We have been meeting regularly over the past few months to talk about art and climate change and develop initiatives to further our community aims of increasing planting, especially new trees. Our challenges are that we have minimum water and need plants to thrive with minimum maintenance. At the moment, most of our planters are doing really well and some of the sedum even survived the 2019 weed killer episode.
Keen to work with the Hotwells community that they are part of and encourage their successors to do the same, we began to make plans to create more planting opportunities. Our aim is to involve as many people as possible by spreading the word through HCCA and city wide through arts, sustainability and gardening networks and organisations.
Inspired by Bricking-it Bristol, the Bristol based organisation making eco-bricks, we want to create an activity that everyone can participate in. Katya has managed to receive a donation of apple saplings and Josie has been experimenting with cob. Meanwhile, I am working out how we make the new planters move so that we can dry the cob and how we care for the apple trees until they are strong enough to live independently. I’m hoping to entice some local creative talents to write and direct our Travelling Apple Grove Festival idea in spring 2021.
Bricking-it staff wanted to come and do a demonstration. Planters are an ideal way to use those eco-bricks that might not conform to building regs (see here for more information) and obviously a great way to use plastic that is not easy to recycle.
Back to the reality of our ever changing world and physical distancing has made it more difficult for us to realise our ideas, but we’re going to persevere as restrictions lessen and degree work is complete. We will let you know on our Facebook page. In the meantime I have been doing some safe distancing maintenance work and continue to do what volunteering I can
Why do more when the Cumberland Basin could all be developed and the very flyovers we are under could disappear? The work we have been doing since we learned of the council’s ‘Western Harbour’ proposals is all ‘light touch’ and moveable. If we don’t make an effort, then we will see the piazza revert to the grey state state it was in before we started cheering it up. And by showing a space is loved we can maybe persuade the authorities to talk to us about their plans, and maybe even adapt them for our changing world. Remember when Greta came to Bristol?
Since 2010 we have been asking local people what they want to see happen in this space and the three top priorities have been greening, art and facilities and activities for kids, families and especially teenagers.
Our programme has continued in 2019 with legacy funding from Ray Smith, who instigated changes to the piazza in partnership with his daughter, Zoe, a landscape designer and artist Anna Haydock-Wilson, who manages the piazza projects.
New mobile planters for Hotwell Road railings & sociable bench planters
We designed & commissioned Bristol Wood Recycling Project to make 10 mobile planters for the Hotwells Road ‘entrance. Planted by locals at the Community Gardening day on 19th May, these are now flourishing with pollution absorbing pollinators which should flower year round.
Modular bench planters were also designed and built with BWRP and installed in September. We had help from locals to plant them. Six year old Bori loves gardening and she did most of the work.
In June Luke Palmer fulfilled his long held ambition to paint his beautiful view of the Clifton Suspension Bridge, for which we are all very grateful!
In September Anna devised an engagement activity with Amy Hutchings to coordinate with the BOB 170 celebrations. This giant game of scrabbled involved over 50 passers by of all ages who were invited to contribute positive words about Hotwells. This initiative was in response to some really unpleasant tagging that had recently occurred and negative words being slung around the world more widely.
Friends of Hotwells Piazza
We are developing a ‘Friends of’ group to help with the maintenance and develop future plans for the site. We’re looking for people who like gardening, especially communally, people who are interested in urban greening and re-wilding, artists, community sports coaches and anyone else with ideas of improving the largest public open space in Hotwells. We have a facebook group if you would like to get involved. We are proud that the flora on the piazza needs so little maintenance and delighted to announce that we have only had to water the plants a handful of times this year and only once emptied out rain water butt.
Looking forward to 2020
Plans for the year ahead will focus on keeping the piazza as climate friendly as possible and reaching out to the community with events and activities. We’re partnering with some local UWE art students who are part of the Climate Research Group to celebrate Earth Day at the end of April. We’d like to build a sculpture, some planters and some seating from ‘eco-bricks’ and experiment with other re-use ideas
All piazza work is funded by HCCA via the council’s Neighbourhood Partnership programme, the DCLG, private donations and funding for arts. Over the years and with huge amounts of volunteers’ time we have been able to plant trees, create new planters and planted areas, paint the pillars, commission murals by Bristol artists, make a skate spot and some play sculptures and organise events for the Peaceful Portway, the West Bristol Arts Trail and recently 170 years celebration of Brunel’s Other Bridge.
Massive thanks to all the volunteers and artists who have helped garden and paint over the years, to Ray Smith for his legacy money which is supporting the works this year and to Zoe Smith for her landscape design and sustainable planting support.
HCCA has also commissioned Bristol Wood Recycling Project to build some new planters co-designed with Anna Haydock-Wilson which locals helped us fill in our last community gardening day on May 19th and Alex from LiveGraft has been back on site to help us with some more greening of the Piazza.
Sadly, in early May, weed-killer was sprayed all over the Piazza, destroying nearly £2000 worth of plants and labour. The sedum beds and chinese poppies were about to burst into flower but were almost completely destroyed along with several hebes, ferns, heuchera and others. We have had to put energy and resources into restoring the beds and we have once again requested that the council does not use weed killer on the Piazza. With climate change causing ever extreme weather around the globe we need as much carbon absorption and as many pollinators as possible.
On that note, we’re in for a prolonged spell without rain and we were unable to expand out rain water harvesting capacity during an extremely wet June as someone had dumped a motorbike in front of the water butt and store-room. Can you help? Waste water is welcome- it can be as little as encouraging kids to water the planters using their water bottle on the way home from school or a more regular offer. Contact Anna by email if you’re able to bring water to site in times of low rainfall.
7/8th September-Brunel’s Other Bridge group are hosting activities in the Cumberland Basin to demonstrate our local heritage and amazing engineering. Over that weekend we’ll provide some arts activities on the Piazza for everyone to join in
Former fountain with spring growth along original tile pattern
The council have planted a few more trees and HCCA have agreed plans and budget for more planters and benches. To help us with more designs and ideas for helping the space to thrive we’re setting up a Friends of the Hotwells Piazza group so that we can bring together locals, artists, skaters, gardeners, historians, environmentalists, women who love parkour and anyone else who fancies a natter and some tea and cake.
Last year we added sedum beds, a fern garden and a couple of rockeries by taking up the old Sun Ray tiles designed by Sylvia Crowe and we’ll continue to plant into the cracks to create more green areas on the site. For more details visit HCCA community projects
Sadly some places are bare and boring and close to the roads, so for these we’re adding new planters. We’ve been designing some that can be moved around and we’re also designing some ‘sociable seating’ with hexagonal planters in sunny spaces looking out to the lock gates and the river.
We have plans for the former children’s play area too. The concrete blocks will move so they work better for children, trial bikers and the kinds of kids who like to experiment with their scooter.
As well as re-painting the floor games and marking route ways and play lines we’re hoping to commission more street art before the rabbits take over!
West Bristol Arts Trail is a lovely community event, attracting thousands of visitors to Hotwells& Cliftonwood over the weekend. The weather is usually kind to all those traipsing the streets (and lanes) of our community and the artwork rarely disappoints!
Designed by Luke Palmer and painted by him, Kwase and Anna
At the Cumberland Piazza we have nothing to sell, only an invitation to wander round and look at our eclectic mix of street art, mural paintings and planted areas. This community led regeneration project was instigated by the late, great Ray Smith of Hotwells and Cliftonwood Community Association who invited Anna Haydock-Wilson to get involved in 2010 to see if arts could play a role in changing the site from a grey, empty, underused and vandalised space into a vibrant community space. It is a work in progress, but thanks to all the members of the community, artists, architects and landscapers we’ve had working with us, things have changed dramatically over the past few years.
This weekend you’ll be able to see the work of
The local community, who painted the pillars in tonal colours and help with community gardening days
Dave Bain who designed and painted the ‘hidden forest’
Amy Hutchings who created the Herons and the Hotwells Primary Mural and Women of Hotwells and Cliftonwood
Hotwells Primary and other local children who’s art work Amy beautifully transcribed
Anna will be around on Saturday and Sunday 3-5pm to talk about the project and help you make some ‘art’. Did you bring too many beach stones or shells back from holiday this summer?
If they’re not decorating your garden please bring them along and place them in our railings rockery. We can’t literally have silver bells to go with our cockle shells, but we will be experimenting on sunday, tying old keys to the railings to see what sounds they make.