London's Lost Garden
Full promotional film for the London's Lost Garden performance
"It was the year that never was, and Convoys Wharf lay dormant."
‘London’s Lost Garden’ comprises a performance script, podcast radio play and promotional film, which narrativizes the Protest against a planning application imposed upon the Convoys Wharf brownfield site in Deptford, London - once the setting for John Evelyn’s infamous 17th century garden.
Designed for the campaigners ‘Voice 4 Deptford’, the project forms a critical piece of public engagement that outlines the social and environmental benefits for resurrecting the garden, and proposes community performance as a more inclusive strategy for expanding public intervention within urban planning initiatives.
The proposal draws from guerrilla gardening - the practice of cultivating privately owned land, and the contemporary theatre design practice eco-scenography, which examines the environmental influences that the objects and sites of performance have on their audiences beyond the theatrical event.
View the full script here
It was the year that never was, and Convoys Wharf lay dormant.
Once, long ago, it housed a lush Elysium, of rare experiments and strange plants.
But, through heavy ills the garden sank beneath. It was thought it would never return to share its good health and clean fruits with the people of Deptford.
London’s Lost Garden. The parterres and great orchard of an experiment now dissipated amongst the sunken trenches.
What it is and could be are the same. Peer above the cladded fence and observe shrubs breaking grey concrete seas and barbed wire fences. Fertile soil stirs restlessly to sprout great trunks and shining stems as vibrant theatres.
It was the year that never was, and I was busy gardening my room. I gardened the floor and gardened the windows because I did not much like the view. In the year that never was there are only static deadlines. We are suspended in stagnant water and I am hoping to stop the rot.
Faint voices on the airwaves demand we must all ‘return to normal’ by late afternoon:
“I have outline planning permission for 3,500 new homes for the Convoys Wharf site! The restoration of any part of the garden is infeasible!”
Arrogant mass ripping steel from the slabs! Do we want ‘Normal’?
We are rooted bodies - a tangled mass. Growing grotesque but growing!
With haste I garden down the road and garden around the corner to Convoys Wharf.
I rupture the slumber and heavy soil does rise.
I warn the Garden that they are sure to be buried forever if Normal organises their self-serving self.
“We must all run away! These starch’t and affected designes smell more of paint than of flowers.”
We must harvest a performance to re-construct the fate of Convoys Wharf in Deptford! Perform and exist outside Normal, so that it may not frivolously waste and discard.
“Touch the ground you walk on. Feel it and grow something you may all share in! Unfold the soil so that we may prevent it from turning stale and Lo! the limber vine plaits leafy bowers!”
It was the year that never was, and the city gardened good health and clean fruits.
Three effigies stand their post. Sentinels of a now when we learnt we are not afterthoughts in a ceaseless drive to produce.
We are post-digging, deeply embedded in our earthy conclusion.
We learnt to nurture, performing the town with little gardens. Heavy as moss and soil we sank into the fabric.
The three characters from the performance (From left to right): Convoys Properties LTD, the Narrator and the Garden
Costume design for 'the Garden'
(Wheat grass and soil grown on hessian fabric)
Modelled on location in front of Convoys Wharf, Deptford
Sewing tests and terrariums for growing organic material onto fabric (wheat grass and moss) and burying the costume in the garden. Through wearing the costume, the performer experiences the materiality of the Sayes Court Garden as it was, mossy, moist and grotesque. Once the performance has run, the costume may be returned to the soil to decompose. As with the nature of gardening, nothing that is consumed is not replenished.
Props design for the soil hydrosol
Gardening at the John Evelyn Community Garden (Surrey Quays) to research gardening activity as performance
The hydrosol is made by distilling organic material in a pot or distil, leaving the liquid scent of the soil. The material gathered from guerrilla gardening in urban spaces and from the Convoys Wharf site was heated and bottled to summon the Garden during the performance
Conducting performance as research to test gardening as performance with participants
Full video essay about the project