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Community spirit Coronavirus Environment

The 100-Year Plan – part two: fresh chives, moths and clay

Exploring ecology and accountability as we revisit the residents of Portland Street, Stoke-on-Trent.

Creative Civic Change (CCC) is a new approach to funding, using arts and creativity to make positive local change. This post is part of a series exploring CCC community responses to COVID-19. It follows on from our first conversation with Rebecca Davies of the Portland Inn Project (PIP) earlier this year with the CCC evaluators here. 

We visited PIP in May this year as lockdown measures were lifting, and then again in June. During our visits, we saw how raising awareness of the local ecology remains at the core of PIP’s drive to transform the way that residents see their local neighbourhood.

100-year projects, ecological workshops and creativity are all part of the process of transformation and key to this is creatively engaging with local children, described as ‘the future’ by one resident who explained:

My 100-year plan is for my kids, their kids, and their kids to have somewhere that they can call home.” 

– Steve, a local, Portland Street

Activities taking place during our first visit were a natural dyeing workshop and a tidy-up of the green space around the temporary hub off Portland and Century Street. During our second visit, a clay pizza oven was being constructed, while residents used moulds to construct clay moths.   

The children are the future

On our first visit, a younger resident was keen to show off skills acquired in a foraging workshop held the day before. Proudly offering us a few sprigs of freshly picked and washed chives, she insisted that we try them immediately to see how delicious and sweet they were and then told us how much she enjoyed foraging on the green.  

We caught up with Katrina Wilde who leads frequent foraging and natural dyeing workshops with the children and interested parents. Katrina encourages an appreciation of nature and manages to keep her young participants excited and eager to see the results of their handiwork.

Listen-in to a dyeing workshop here: 

 The kids are being educated and they don’t even realise it, they think they are playing games and having fun, but they are learning at the same time, that’s what the future is to me – the children. “

– Steve, a local, Portland Street

Accountability and community action

Century Street houses the community green as well as disused industrial land called Brownfields, which is known to the community to house many species of animals and fauna.

An ecology report stated that nesting season for many of the birds and other species on site would take place between March and August. After a strong recommendation that clearing of the site by a local developer should not take place until after this period, local residents woke up on Easter Monday to the sound of heavy machinery clearing the site.

Listen to Anna speaking to BBC Radio Stoke to raise awareness about the clearing:  

Residents came together to share their concerns about the destruction of local ecology and hold the local property developer accountable, in an incredible display of togetherness, community spirit, resilience and commitment.

The holidays slowed down the process of contacting local councillors and making complaints to relevant environmental agencies but eventually they were able to make their collective voice heard.

An ecologist working with the developers stated that according to their report there were not many birds or other species nesting on the site at the time however residents do not hold this consistent with their evidence that the site was heaving with life.

Listen to residents Kerry and Steve share their experience of the clearing and coming together to tackle injustice:  

Listen to more Voice of Creative Civic Change here.

They said there were certain species that weren’t there but me and a friend two years previously put bat boxes up there, we checked on them monthly, they were in use but there was no evidence found on all the records, but I know they were there!” 

– Steve, a local, Portland Street

When it was all emails and people were out of office because it was Easter holidays it was a waiting game, where I felt, what were we fighting for? There’s nothing that can be done now but if you took that view for everything, you’d never have any progress.

– Kerry, a resident of Portland Street

Moths and evidence 

In a conversation between Anna and Kerry exploring ways of gathering visual evidence of local wildlife using dashcams, trail cams and moth traps, Anna shared why she had recently become so fascinated by moths and felt them to be very important to their 100-year vision:

Moths I think are quite overlooked, actually there are way more species than butterflies and they are night-time pollinators and so are really important for our night-time ecology.”

– Anna, cofounder of PIP and resident of Portland Street

There is a link between deprived areas and the lack of survey culture around ecologies. If we don’t know the value of nature locally then it can just be wiped out without anyone saying anything.”

– Anna, cofounder of PIP and resident of Portland Street

Anna’s clay moth workshop was a success as she was able to engage with two local families for the first time. She successfully invited them to more workshops that were part of the 2021 summer programme of activities for residents, and they returned the following day to help complete building the pizza oven.  

Pizza ovens and recycling 

A local member of the community affectionately known as Community Ken had been asking that a pizza oven was built for the community. Community Ken has been invested in ensuring that gaps in the local community are filled and has a history of engagement through running various initiatives and a community centre.

After a callout, the project eventually found Cristina and Mark who were eager to make Community Ken’s wishes come true. A flight box or trunk on wheels was recycled to become the base of the pizza oven, all the wood used was recycled and other materials were bought locally. The following day many children were involved in the final stages of building the oven.

See the oven taking shape with artists Cristina and Mark on Instagram.

Kerry’s plan 

My hundred-year plan is to prove everybody wrong in the area that I live in, that we are worth it and that we’re a great community with a great community spirit and that we can achieve anything we put our minds to.” 

– Kerry, resident of Portland Street

About the author 

This blog is part of our series on Creative Civic Change responses to COVID-19. It was written by the CCC Intern Khadijah, as part of a series of blogposts that support the latest CCC learning report, Growing Through the Storm.