Celebrating the Summer Solstice in the Paper Garden

The sun was making a gallant appearance amongst gathering clouds, as delicate fired and glazed clay pieces, made by hundreds of children, were laid out along the edge of a brick retaining wall in the courtyard of the old Canada Water Dock Offices. Children wriggled into large paper costumes, found their places and practiced poems. Somewhere in the trees behind us, a green man, the messenger of the earth, hid waiting while parents and more children slowly trickled in. Finally, we were ready for the performance and the summer solstice procession to begin. A solstice story about the parting of the earth and the sky so the light could flood in, kicked off the evening’s proceedings. A story about the birds, animals and insects longing to flourish and grow, a story about how we are at that time again when the creatures, through the voices of children, are standing up and saying who they are and how they would like the city to be.

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Enticed by poems shared by children from St John’s school, the Green man stepped out of the trees accompanied by a gasp from the audience. He declared that he had the authority to bestow on them the power of the sun and that with their voices they must go forth and enchant the city. Next came the crowning of the stag beetle, the rumble of the drums, and the procession made its way to the heron who lives beside the dock. The children from St Joseph’s stood on the benches of a small rotunda, and spoke up loud and strong:

Beautiful bird

I love the way you elegantly glide through the air

Riding the wind as you soar in the sky

Does nature get any better?

Oh beautiful bird

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The heron was crowned with a fish headed sceptre, with which she promptly led us to the Printworks where the children from Redriff school spoke from the platform with a crafty fox who was also waiting to be crowned. With his large golden key, Fox led us into the workshop space, and everyone laid out the clay pieces that they had carried with them. Together we created an exhibition of hopes for the city, which will grace the Paper Garden over the coming months. The words of the Albion children brought the spirit of the creatures into our newly made city.


Soon we were on the leafy ground at the edge of the garden; home of the beloved hedgehog. Our young Paper Garden generators, hosts for the evening, gave the final words and the hedgehog received the one and only golden crown. Smoke rose in front of us and we ended our journey on this very special day with the sun warming our bones, the earth nourishing our hearts and the fires and the flowers calling us through the arches to the garden; a place enchanted by hundreds of children who have spent time in the Paper Garden over the last six months.

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Many thanks to British Land and LB Southwark for their support and the children of Redriff, Albion, St John’s and St Joseph primary schools along with the Paper Garden Generators, for using your imagination to help shape the world you want to see.