Flowers in an Allotment - Piece of the Park © Rebecca Chesney
Peel Park and the Coppice is a large parcel of public open space close to Accrington town centre. Much of Peel Park, and particularly the Coppice at the top of the park, has spectacular, natural beauty. There is a great love for the area locally and it is used for walking, basketball, children's play, bowling, picnicking, allotments, bird-watching and meeting friends. Unfortunately poor access points and unattractive entrances have in recent years created and reinforced a feeling of dereliction.
Over the past few years Lancashire County Council has funded the Peel Park and Coppice Master Plan, setting out a programme of improvements to the area. Improvements to the main access path and steps up to the refurbished Peel Monument were completed in 2010.
Hyndburn Borough Council and Lancashire County Council moved forward with the refurbishment of Avenue Parade Entrance as the next stage. The entrance originally had stained and graffitied stone pillars, unsightly railings and barbed wire, uneven surfaces and untidy bollards. The improvement programme took place during 2011 and will be completed during spring 2012.
The Sculptural Gateway Commission aimed to link with the recent improvements to create an exciting entrance and raise the profile of future developments within the park.
Mid Pennine Arts engaged local allotment holders and Peel Park Primary School in creative investigations of the site through talks, events, site visits and workshops. The Peel Park Creative Engagement programme ran from early 2010 to April 2012 and consisted of two distinct creative projects.
Avenue Parade Entrance
Sculptor Michael Scheuermann was commissioned by MPA to redevelop the entrance. His design was chosen as it utilised the structure and materials that were already in place. Michael began work on carving into the existing columns in December 2011. The final stage, adding a metal arch intertwined with detail, was installed in April 2012.
Michael linked up with Peel Park Primary School as part of the project, giving a talk to the children on stonemasonry. A class trip to the entrance site to watch Michael at work inspired the children to draw their own designs. These drawings were realised through clay workshops run by Michael. Some of the designs were chosen to be carved into the columns of the new entrance. Images of this can be seen on the right.
Local landscaping to compliment the new entrance will complete the project by late spring 2012. Redevelopment of the Avenue Parade Park Entrance is supported by Lancashire County Council Arts Development Service, LCC’s former ReMADE scheme, Hyndburn Borough Council and Arts Council England.
This project has resulted in an entrance that the community can take pride in and respect, encouraging more residents to use the park and take ownership of this important facility.
Piece of the Park
Mid Pennine Arts commissioned a creative project with allotment holders and ‘in waiting’ allotment holders at Peel Park in Accrington as part of the wider Creative Regeneration Project in conjunction with ReMADE. The aim was to help the allotment holders and ‘in waiting’ holders to explore and expand their thoughts of how the plots in the park could be developed in the future.
Rebecca Chesney was the artist commissioned to explore the potential within the Peel Park allotment plots and the holders. Initially all ‘in waiting’ and current holders were contacted with a questionnaire about their allotment or allotment to be. Questions included ‘What do you grow?’, ‘What would you grow?’, ‘What you would like to grow?’, ‘ How do/would you use your piece of the park?’
Allotment holders and ‘in waiting’ holders were encouraged to engage with the project through different means. They could be interviewed directly, send for a pack that contained a booklet with questions to be returned or attend a tea and cake meeting at the Peel Park Pub for a general chat. All participants were generous with their time and were keen to share their stories about the allotments.
None of the current plot holders had their own garden at home but lived close enough to the allotments to enable them to fulfil their ambitions. The plots had been derelict before being developed by the plot holders, each feeling that they were using the derelict land in a positive way and helping to clean up their local area.
Most holders produce was grown without the use of chemicals wherever possible and all actively encourage wildlife onto the plots such as birds, bees, butterflies, hedgehogs, frogs and toads. It was found that many others benefited from the allotments too including friends, family, neighbours and colleagues who received free vegetables, fruit, jam and eggs. On average 10 other people benefited from each plot. In particular two plot holders regularly invited small groups of primary school children to visit their plots assisting in the education of how fruit and vegetables are grown.
All plot holders had similar concerns about vandalism and security, in particular fences, which were insecure in places and dangerous. Another concern was lack of water. Most collected rain water but others paid an additional fee to the council for a supply. Overall it was felt that future development wasn’t required. The only issues that needed addressing were safer fencing and allocating the derelict plots to those in waiting.
In Waiting Holders
‘In waiting’ holders were really keen to be given the chance to grow their own food. Most already grew vegetables and fruit in their back yards and needed more space. All were keen to try and grow their crops chemically free and wanted to encourage wildlife. They were all aware of derelict plots at Peel Park and were frustrated they had been neglected for so long, especially as they were so keen to have a plot. The idea of smaller plots than the ones already in use was well received.
Overall Rebecca found that resourcefulness was a key requisite for an allotment holder, putting up fencing, making sheds and paths, collecting rain water, recycling materials and sharing equipment were all part of the role. She felt the allotment holders were
ambassadors for healthy eating, benefiting from keeping fit and active all year round in an open space. Each holder spoke about how having a plot helped their mental well-being. Having a place to go to away from home and somewhere they could sit in summer and share with their children, who could play and help out, was all part of the experience of being an allotment holder. The allotment also offered a place of
solitude to go when recovering from illness and bereavement. A sense of community was also felt with each plot holder helping each other out with tips and advice, lending equipment and watching nearby plots when others were away.
The information gathered was used to produce an A3 folded leaflet titled Piece of the Park Accrington 2010. Highlighting the positive elements of the Peel Park allotments, it contains quotes from participants, recipes, photos, plant pressings, a bird list and a list of all the fruit and vegetables grown on the site. Our artist in residence Rebecca Chesney has since gone on to a major residency at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Thanks go the Partners of this project
ReMADE – Roy Halliday (Remade Peel Park Project Management)
Groundwork Pennine Lancashire – Amelia Dew (Peel Park Project Management)
Hyndburn Borough Council - Lianne Abram (Allotments)
Hyndburn Borough Council - Anne Hurricane (Planning)