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Community spirit Coronavirus Environment

The 100-Year Plan – part one: Sowing the seeds

How residents of Portland Street, Stoke-on-Trent, are imagining a greener future for their neighbourhood  

Creative Civic Change (CCC) is a new approach to funding, using arts and creativity to make positive local changeAs part of our series exploring creative community responses to COVID-19, we spoke to Rebecca Davies of the Portland Inn Project (PIP), whose lockdown activities grew into a 100year vision for their neighbourhood. The second part of the 100-year story is available here.

The 100-Year Plan seeks to encourage residents to think of their local ecology, community and development in the timespan of a century, which they hope will result in a more secure future for communities.  

At the start of the first lockdown in March 2020, PIP took the difficult decision to close the project’s temporary hub on the green space off Portland Street, the PIPPIN. Having a visible presence in the green space was important as this had previously been the site of anti-social behaviour in the community. 

See Rebecca giving us a tour of the space in the video below: 

Despite this initial setback, PIP quickly adapted to the lockdown environment. They began delivering creative packs for young people on the street which also offered important moments to listen and connect with parents in the neighbourhood.

One of the packs contained sunflower seeds, and from these small seeds PIP artists and co-directors Rebecca Davies and Anna Francis started to notice that residents on the street were becoming interested in designing and planting their gardens. Rebecca says: 

One of the creative packs had seeds in it that young people grew for a sunflower competition. It was just a really beautiful way of understanding that the yard was this space that people wanted to be in – and they didn’t have much choice. Residents were gardening more because this creative pack sort of planted the seed – literally.”


One resident who’s never done gardening before has been landscaping a Japanese garden in his yard. And I’m only able to find that out through those constant conversations with him on the street. At the same time, there was a lot of antisocial behaviour happening on the green space. We designed a project in response – that would tackle the challenges and support the growing interest in growing.”

From these conversations and connections, Rebecca and Anna began to grow a new project: the 100-Year Plan. Rebecca told us:  

We wanted to work with a local ceramic artist and to bring someone into the area from outside – a gardener with a collaborative and open approach to gardening and designing green spaces.  We were really interested in Andrea Ku’s practice as an artist, gardener and beekeeper.”

It was winter and there were restrictions on public activity. We began the project with Jo Mills – a ceramic artist who the project has worked with in the past and who some of the families are familiar with. Jo’s part of the project – Yardware – would be a way of beginning conversations with residents about plans for their yards, what they would like to grow, while making a vessel for their yard.”

This then paved the way for the project with Andrea Ku – taking place on the green space. The title of the project – created by Andrea in collaboration with us and the residents – was the100-Year Plan.”


Thinking about the future is really beautiful – it’s something that lots of people locally find really difficult. To think about investing in the area when they’ve felt so disenfranchised for so long – they have actually decided that they’ve got a stake in the area for the next 100 years. It’s super ambitious, but it’s really beautiful how it makes people really imaginative and hopeful. A journey from these little seeds in the Creative Packs to now a major project.”

How did a 100-year plan grow from a sunflower seed? 

Our conversation with Rebecca explored the ‘optimum growing conditions’ for growing a long-term vision for a greener, more biodiverse neighbourhood. For PIP, responsiveness has been the single most important growing condition for the 100-Year Plan, and their work during the pandemic more broadly.




A core feature of this responsiveness has been being present on the street and the blurring of the boundary between resident and artist (Anna lives on Portland Street itself, and Rebecca nearby). This has allowed the PIP team to build a deep understanding of the neighbourhood through listening to residents, and their own lived experience. Rebecca told us:

It goes without saying that listening is important, but I think I’ve gotten a lot better than I’ve ever been. Just recognising those tiny things, those tiny seeds as such vital information that can then begin something much larger.”

Added to this is PIP’s ability to cross-pollinate different networks in imagining bold and creative responses to the problems and possibilities on the street. This included bringing in artists such as Andrea, who is based in Liverpool but “really knows no boundaries – a big reason why we invited her”. As Rebecca reflected: 

What I think makes PIP really exciting is the constant crossing of different networks: art and creativity, the community, the neighbourhood and networks of public services. I think artists play a really important role here. We often talk about the artist being the fool and jester – taking a serious court space and entertaining and pushing boundaries or speaking a different language – a visual or performative language.”

 See Rebecca in action here:

Being responsive has also entailed maintaining and asserting boundaries. Part of PIP’s work has always been holding local services to account – for example, addressing anti-social behaviour or making sure the grass is mowed on the green space.  

A month into work on the 100-Year plan, something happened that prompted the whole neighbourhood to come together and demand accountability and reparation – not just from public services, but from a private local developer.

See what happened here: 

The response from the community was immediate: ‘We can’t let them get away with this’.  

Read more about how Portland Street residents held the developer to account here. 

About the authors

This blog is part of our series on Creative Civic Change responses to COVID-19. It was written by CCC evaluators Anousheh Haghdadi (Beatfreeks) with Sarah Boiling and Amanda Smethurst, as part of the second CCC learning report, Growing Through the Storm.  

Compiled and edited by Khadijah Carberry (CCC Intern, 2021).