The Whispering Hedge
“The wall round the flower garden was ill-fated. Kids took delight in smashing it down. Eventually, when it had been rebuilt twelve times, we abandoned it. A hedge will take more time, but the kids leave trees alone.” (Meanwhile Gardens, Jamie McCullough, 1988)
The Whispering Hedge is proposed as a symbol of the resilience of Meanwhile Gardens.
The Whispering Hedge is designed as a living artwork, developing a new urban hedge topology.
The Whispering Hedge project encompasses performance, events, and the establishment of new collective rituals and mythologies.
About Meanwhile Gardens
Meanwhile Gardens is a community garden established in 1976, led by the local artist Jamie McCullough, with advice from the landscape section of the GLC (John
Medhurst) and local people. Formerly a long stretch of waste ground between the Grand Union Canal and Elkstone Road as the result of redevelopment in the 1960s, Meanwhile Gardens was developed under Jamie McCullough’s vision. Inspired by the possibilities of the site, he imagined a garden that would be ‘the local people’s creation, to build, develop, maintain and manage’. That vision became reality and today the gardens continue to develop and flourish under the management of Meanwhile Gardens Community
Forming the Hedge
The development of the Whispering Hedge will involve detailed environmental and horticultural research to ascertain the most suitable species, their capacity as host species, and an appropriate maintenance approach. The hedge will be planted with as wide a range of species as possible, including native hardwood tree species. However each variety will be rigorously selected for their suitability to the site - considering aspects both ecological and cultural. The process of researching, planning, planting, and nurturing a new hedge will need to be sensitive to the requirements of Meanwhile gardens and the Tow-path, and will be a collaborative process.
Hearing the Hedge
A series of events over the summer will involve surprising and absurdist sound events to draw people's attention to the hedge and the gardens as a whole:
- encouraging people to stop and listen, to draw breath, with a heightened awareness of ambient sound in the park, and canal-side.
- evoking a folkloric element, encouraging myth making and storytelling .
Events to include:
- large analogue listening devices, temporarily installed, or carried around the site as an interactive performance, in an apparent attempt to listen to the hedge. 'Interference' from birdsong and other ambient noise is intended.
- an electro-acoustic device, connected to electrodes attached to the hedge, monitoring changes of voltage (revealing the fluctuating emotions of the hedge?!)
- a 'Hedge School' event will use the hedge as a backdrop for storytelling, using the 18th & 19th Century Irish Hedge Schools as starting point for exploring differing folklore traditions.
Each event incorporates a watering of the hedge into the narrative of the event.
“The building of a park would not of itself make social change; it could merely set the scene for it to happen. In a way, it was failure: but only the failure of fantasy. Reality was showing what could be done.”
(Meanwhile Gardens, Jamie McCullough, 1988)
Meanwhile Gardens & Canal & River Trust, London, 2017
Meanwhile Gardens 1981 Documentary by Steve Shaw