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?
Stay well and keep growing stuff
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