Saturday 23 May 2015

Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival 1986 - 30th Anniversary

Just a note to say that the city now has one year to prepare for the 30th anniversary (May 2016) of the Stoke-on-Trent National Garden Festival 1986, now Festival Park and environs. Off the top of my head, a few ideas...

* a major well-researched gallery exhibition on the history of the site, perhaps also a book.

* a one night 'Sound & Light Night' on the site - artists working on the parkland areas of the site to make suitable artworks (temporary natural sculptures; environment art; costumed tableaux in dewy groves; illuminated light art; low-key ambient sound art) for one night only. I note that the large commercial “Just So” children’s art festival, held annually in woodland a few miles north of Stoke, has built up a great deal of expertise in such matters, and might be able to provide access to their roster of experienced artists.

If St. Modwen are not interested in providing their well-tended parkland area at Festival Park, then perhaps the rougher adjacent Grange Park area of the site could be used - that runs from the summit of the hill behind Morrisons down to Rogerson's Meadow / Navigation Lane at Middleport. In which case the canal towpath from Forge Lane to Middleport might also play a part.

Another potential location for a 'Light Night' would be the parkland around the Etruria Industrial Museum, which was also part of the Garden Festival. The event could be an evening follow-on from the Etruria Canal Festival, which itself could have a Garden Festival theme in 2016 - floral barges etc. The Etruria site could potentially be gated for a tickets-only evening.

* reclaim 30 small grotty waste sites across the city as 'pocket parks' (e.g. the waste plot between AirSpace and the Mitchell in the city centre), with the help of designers, architects and artists.

* perhaps an 'Open Gardens' weekend across the city.

* perhaps bring the ancient 'spring and well-dressing' floral tradition down to Stoke, from the Peak District where it still survives. Perhaps to mark the site of hidden culverted rivers and streams, and also the natural seasonal springs that still survive (e.g. several around Hartshill, above Stoke town).

I also note that the increasingly grotty car park area on Festival Park retail park is apparently set for a major refurb, which should (my guess) be finished by summer 2016. It'll probably be very conventional, but I wonder if some form of artistic topiary (hedges-as-sculpture) might be included in that, so as to link the site to the visual heritage of the Garden Festival that can still be seen on the adjacent parkland.

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