The Canada Water Paper Garden has grown a Firebird

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Over the last year we have been developing The Paper Garden, in the Printworks at Canada Water SE16. This has meant running ecology and arts workshops for local schools and existing community organisations, so that over time the imaginations of children and young people will help to shape the public realm within the new Canada Water Masterplan. To celebrate our ongoing work of aligning with the rhythms and patterns of nature we are holding a Solstice Lantern Procession on December 21st. The centre piece will be a giant four-meter firebird lantern.

Early influences for myself and several of my Paper Garden colleagues, go back to the large-scale spectacles of Welfare State and Bread and Puppet. They were inspiring, outdoor celebratory and political theatre companies. However, for me that was a long time ago … circa 1983 and whilst Global Generation’s work has involved lots of storytelling and visual arts we are not a carnival company at least not yet! Working on the procession has felt rather like the journey of the firebird herself. Believing and not really knowing how it might take shape. Imagining whispers of what might be possible. Pulling small threads together and sowing them into children and young people’s imaginations. Feeling excitement and relief as I see them explode with creative energy. Thankfully, along with our regular Paper Garden Team, the right people have unexpectedly shown up to help us, like Cathy Wren a local theatre designer and Richard Joy, music director for the Printworks.

Week after week on a Friday afternoon, a small group of young Generators have worked on the procession with us; they have been our base drum. Their enthusiasm is the spine that has carried the whole thing. Now a week away, the rhythms are set, the chant is formed, the firebird has feathers, the lights and the firewood have arrived and the people we invited have said they will come; including our very own green and cosmic Santa. Roll on the 21st. Big thanks to Sound Tent for the recordings of the Canada Water Dawn Chorus, The Printworks for the space and the music direction, British Land for financial support and a whole lot more. The Staff of Redriff Primary school and Bacons College for involving their pupils in preparatory workshops and the procession itself. Most of all thank you to the children and young people whose imaginations are making the firebird and her entourage fly. This is what the Generators have said about their experience:

Working on the solstice procession makes me feel proud because I’m part of it and it’s good to know that other people will see my skills. It has been hard and we have had some trial and error. The first week we made instruments and wrote firebird poems. The next week the music director from the Printworks recorded our readings with his professional equipment. We all felt nervous but it was great. The third week we planned how it was all going to work; the movements, the ceremony and the fire and finally we practiced the chants and the percussion. Now I am ready! – Melinda GG Generator 11 years

Working on the procession has been somewhat magical. It’s like knowing what the puzzle looks like before you’ve even made it! From creating rhythmical beats on the drums and building part of the centre piece itself; The Firebird. With all the craziness of preparing the firebird, in my eyes it humbles me with her might and glory. I cannot help but glance over as she takes shape and form as the centre of our procession. What’s it all about? She brings life into others hearts and warms them with the spirit and build up to Christmas. Every part of this is great, but the firebird is … special and guessing from my experience, everyone will gaze at her utter beauty – Arthur GG Generator 14 years

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