However much we try to tame our cities, to bound our flora between concrete and tarmac, to house them in flower beds or pots, they escape.
Between cracks, behind billboards, tucked into forgotten corners, the wilderness grows. Some of these wild things are from here, some have travelled from far away and all have had to adapt and learn to live in the city. They hardly need us, yet exploit our weakness, the cracks in our buildings, the rubbish we leave behind, the places we forget to sweep. We, however, need their wild green.
Our cities are unlivable without green spaces, without the wildlife they bring. What we are now learning is that every little, tiny patch of green matters to our health. Each cleans our air, restores our sense of calm, boosts our immune system and allows us a moment to get lost, a moment to reflect.
The large wildernesses of our cities are well observed. What of the easily missed, the trampled, the ‘here for a moment, but gone the next’? This project aims to document the ordinary everyday weed, or wildling, and asks us to take notice of the botany, history and geography of our pavements, building edges, bridges and step cracks.
Exhibition at Oxford House
There will be an exhibition of photographs of wild plants growing in unusual circumstances by Paul Debois, with paintings by Lynn Keddie and commentary by Alys Fowler.
Oxford House is a community & arts space in Bethnal Green. Housed in a grade II listed building Oh! provides an arts centre, youth volunteering and a community hub. It’s the second year Oh! has been involved in the Chelsea Fringe. They are a big supporter of the Fringe and they will also have fabulous rain garden and pocket park opening alongside our building at the same time.
‘Walks of Wildling’
Alys will be leading walks around the neighbourhood on 24th May, teaching the casual observer about the journey any wildlings took to get to their final destination.
Alys, Paul and Lynn will be talking about wild plants, photography and painting at Oxford House through the afternoon of 24th May. Times and details to be confirmed soon.
Your wildest ‘wildling’
An Instagram-based competition inviting local school children to snap the wildest wildling in the most improbable place.
Selected entries will be displayed on the blog and Oxford House and the winning submission will be chosen by a panel of judges. The winner will receive a small prize.
Alys Fowler is an award winning journalist, presenter and kitchen garden specialist, with both an allotment and urban back garden, complete with two chickens, lots of flowers and plenty of vegetables. She writes a weekly column on gardening for The Guardian.
She has written for The Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine The Garden, Gardeners’ World Magazine, Gardens Illustrated, Grow Your Own and National Geographic’ Green. She is also the author of four books; The Thrifty Gardener, The Thrifty Forager, The Edible Garden and Abundance. She is currently working on a book about bees. She won Garden Writer of the Year 2014.
On television she has appeared on ITV’s Britain’s Greatest Houses and Channel Four’s River, as well as the BBC’s Cottage Edible Gardens, Our Food and their coverage of both The Chelsea Flower Show and the Hampton Court Flower Show.
She is currently one of the faces of the BBC’s Great British Garden Revival.
Paul Debois , a multi-award winning photographer, has worked as a professional photographer for over 20 years and his work has appeared across a wide range of platforms and titles, including Gardener’s World, Country Living, Which Consumer Group, BBC.com, Top Gear, Car Magazine as well as numerous weekend supplements, websites, books and national newspapers.
With an eye for the unusual, he concentrates on floral and landscape subjects. His ‘43 Gardeners’ Hands’ project is a series of black and white portraits of some of the UK’s best known gardeners, focused on just their hands. His modern-day ‘Land Girls’ series, features gardeners who write, blog, broadcast or promote the ‘grow-your-own’ philosophy, photographing them in their own gardens to give a glimpse of how they practice what they preach.
He has exhibited widely in the UK and overseas, most recently at ‘Contrast the City’, a joint undertaking with artist Caroline Underwood, working in monochrome, taking nature and relationships with the environment as the central theme.
He is regularly called on as a judge, including for the prestigious International Garden Photographer of the Year competition. For more details see www.pauldebois.com
Lynn Keddie is an award winning professional photographer and painter with a strong emphasis on nature and horticulture.
Her photography is widely published in prestigeous titles such as Gardens Illustrated, Country Living, The Garden, Country Homes and Interiors and Good Housekeeping. In recent years, she has incorporated painting into her everyday life and has had several exhibitions.
Usually painting landscapes in oils and floral subjects in watercolours, this body of work has allowed her to explore new areas combining urban and natural subjects. Each painting is inspired by Paul’s photography allowing a creative, loose and sometimes naive approach to some subjects such as: Between the Tracks and The Greening of Battersea Power Station to a more faithful representation in: Grate life and From Nature with Love. Each Wildling is painted in oil on canvas stretched and tacked over plywood. For more details see www.lynnkeddie.com