Gardening projects are defined by the cycle of the seasons, and this one, despite its hybrid nature, is no exception. As the first signs of spring appeared in mid-February, a core group came together online to start sharing ideas for the project. As with the gardening year, preparation of the ground began way back; with conversations between Tanja Beer of the Living Stage, and Bronwyn Preece, Meghan Moe Beitiks and Lisa Woynarski of Plantable Performance Research Collective at the Earth Matters on Stage in 2012, when they started to dream about an ecological flash-mob that left a positive impact on the place they performed; with chats between Lisa and I about working on a theatre project in Wales, or back in 2010, when we created a performance in a community garden in London with Green Stage theatre group. Over the winter, ideas for a collaboration for World Stage Design in Cardiff had begun to take shape: to create an ‘edible’ living stage and a playful performance created to fit and activate the space.
As community engagement coordinator, I began by emailing a handful of gardening groups in Cardiff, and to my delight, received positive responses from the first groups I contacted. These early conversations with Sam Holt of Riverside Community Allotments, Katie Jones of FCFCG, Poppy Reichelt of Adamsdown and Michele Fitzsimmons of Edible Landscaping helped to nourish and shape the project in its fragile, seedling stage.
From May to July I had the privilege to interview 19 gardeners from around Cardiff about how they started gardening and what it brings to them. The ideas and stories shared gripped me and made me excited about sharing them further; over the last month Plantable have drawn on the recordings to inspire their performance, while Lisa, Claire Bracegirdle and I have drawn out a few choice quotes for a small book.
Meanwhile gardeners around Cardiff have prepared plants for the stage, assisted by a growing plan by Michele Fitzsimmons of Edible Landscaping. There’ve been planting workshops at Riverside Community Garden with Sam Holt, our growing coordinator, and Adamsdown Community Garden, with Becca Clarke of Green City Events. In July we held a story-telling workshop at with Katie Jones of FCFCG, in which people shared their gardening memories and Katie told a wonder-tale, inviting the group to help create the flow of the story.
Over the last month the team has grown, to welcome Rabab as film-maker, Sarah and Mawgaine on production, and brilliant growing and building volunteers. Our trans-national creative team have begun to arrive in Cardiff; Tanja from Australia and Moe from the states. After many months of skype calls it’s surreal to be in the same physical location! We’ve salvaged furniture from boot sales, charity shops, front gardens and skips. Building maestro Mark has led the adaptation of furniture into planters, while Sam has led the collecting of plant donations from local gardens including Adamsdown Community Garden, Field-days Organics, and Michele Fitzsimmons of Edible Landscaping.
In the run up to the performances at World Stage Design on 13th and 14th we’ll be putting the finishing touches to the Living Room and welcome people to get involved: 10-5 at Riverside Community Garden on Wednesday 4th and Friday 6th September. We’re also inviting people to watch a dress rehearsal at Riverside at 6pm on Wednesday 12th. RSVP if you’d like to come along!