Story Making in the Paper Garden

For the last nine months, we have been growing The Paper Garden in and around the Printworks. This means that we have been growing a living story with children, young people and others in the community; a story that is rooted in the ecology and history of Canada Water. A story that we hope will in time help bring new possibilities to public realm spaces in the surrounding area.

In this emerging tale and in our associated arts and gardening workshops we have been using logs and paper that were parts of the history of the local area. We have been working together with people who live or have lived locally and we have been learning about the birds that visit the docks. We are doing our best, as poet Ben Okri says: "to work on the world as it is and on the dreams that daily become hard stone and flowers of our times."

Lately the Paper Garden story has taken on new dimensions with the help of 360 children from Redriff primary school and some magic jam made by older people who are part of local organisation Time and Talents. Vivian, Elaine, Terri and Fatima spent an afternoon in the Paper Garden; jam making and sharing memories have become special ingredients in the bubbling cauldron where stories are borne. Once upon a time (for real) Vivian and Terri gathered berries for jam, from the place where the Print Works now stands.  

… The elders and their jam gave hope to the birds who longed to re-awaken the secrets of the forest in the city; secrets that had been covered over by the concrete witch who now ruled the city. The birds decided there was a chance to collaborate with the concrete witch, if they sung their songs and told their stories to the elders, reminding them of what they once knew. Reminding them of ways of the land and the secrets of the seasons, the soil and the seeds.  Very soon a wild jam making rumpus began; carparks and the edges of football fields were given over to the growing of fruits and berries that fed bubbling pots brewing magic jam.

One of the children, a little girl called Lucy, felt something was not quite right, she felt it deep in her bones. She noticed, that whilst the people had an endless supply of jam, the land was growing sad and silent. She asked her granny for advice. Suddenly her granny realised she had been so busy encouraging Lucy and her brother Stanley to grow and gather fruits to feed the bubbling pots of jam, she had forgotten to share the secrets of the soil and the seeds. She had forgotten to show them how to feed the creatures of the earth; the worms and the woodlice and the creatures of the air – the bees and the birds.

Lucy followed her granny’s advice and very soon rich dark soil and gardens full of nectar rich flowers and juicy red berries spread across the city. The concrete witch began to share her domain, leaving gaps in the pavements and carparks for gardens, so the birds and insects grew strong. They were extremely happy that Lucy had understood the precious web of connection between all things. The birds decided to grant Lucy a wish. Lucy thought and thought … “shall I have a new pair of shiny new trainers, perhaps a camera or even a walky-talky” … Then Lucy started thinking about the wisdom of her grandmother, and imagined how wise her grandmother’s grandmother and even her grandmother must have been. In her mind, Lucy went back and back and back, billions and billions of years to the beginning of time. In a sudden flash, she knew what her wish would be ….” I want to know the story of my ancestors.

With giant cooking pots donated by the Grainstore Restaurant, gooseberries, currants and tayberries from Boma Garden Centre, an old metal fridge from the Skip Garden Kitchen and reels of copper of piping, one of the first ‘Paper Garden parklets’ is underway. It is to be a jam stand.