Helen’s front garden was recommended by Mark and Gruby. The small, terraced garden contains an oak, crab apple, broom, a rescued hydrangea and a pine tree; all grown in large containers.
My grandfather was a gardener. I was inspired when he planted an arboretum next to his house. It was still small when he died of cancer, so he never saw the trees grow to fruition, but the idea of planting for after you are gone is poetic. With each tree planted, I see a future. It is not for me, it is for everyone.
Why are front gardens important to you?
As soon as I moved here, I put plants in the front garden. Lots of people walking past commented on it, particularly the broom. It created a froth of yellow in early spring, when everything is bleak, and people would stop to look at it, which was a great way of getting to know the people in my new neighbourhood. It is all good having a nice back garden to retreat to, but the front garden is a place to exchange and be a part of your community. I noticed that other people along the road started planting up their front gardens too. Some have replaced the concrete out the front of their houses and planted gardens instead.
How has your career developed since moving to Cardiff?
I had two small children when I moved to Cardiff, so I took a part-time job in an arts library. The work fitted in well with being an artist myself, as it gave me some stability, but allowed me to pursue projects. I run art projects with local schools, colleges and community groups and I teach about urban wildlife and wildflowers. I like to grow trees from seeds with the children, to show them how easy it is.
Then about six years ago, we started Made in Roath, which now seems to be taking up more and more of my time, and is almost a full-time year-round project.
Were you not nervous about starting it?
No, I’ve never been frightened of the work required for this project. I try to ensure that I don’t take control of the projects we start, allowing out collaborators to run free with their ideas, unconstrained by my interpretation of the brief. And then when Made in Roath happens, we remind ourselves what will be will be, and there will always be some small mistakes, but overall, there will be so much interesting art, and swapping of ideas, and meeting new people, that it just won’t matter.
As time progresses, the idea of Made in Roath is evolving, and more people are coming up with community projects outside of our framework, which is inspiring.
How does Made in Roath work?
There is a team of three of us. Our role is to provide the framework for artists to get in touch with the right people to make their projects happen. Our problem is that we can’t resist a good idea, which piles the work on to organise it all. But it is fascinating to see it develop, and to witness the impact it has. Six years ago I may have given a different answer about the impact that art has on the community. I think in the intervening period, we have managed to make art more accessible and trust is developing. People feel more confident about attending and participating. There are hidden artists all over Roath who can get a chance to show their work in confidence.
What are you planning for this year’s event?
We have got some fantastic plans for the autumn, which are described in detail on our website. We are always looking for more people to get involved, such as opening their houses as temporary art galleries.
At this point, I completely lost control of the interview, and appear to have now agreed to attempt a Made in Roath front gardens project… but if this is going to happen, I need help! I need ideas! We can link in the ideas of personal expression through gardening to the wider artistic discussions about Made in Roath.
Here are some initial thoughts, but I will be looking to concentrate on a single project…
- a walking tour around Roath looking at some of our fantastic local front gardens and community spaces
- symbology of sharing cuttings of our favourite plants with our neighbours
- photos displayed of our favourite Roath gardeners
- discussions about reasons why we garden
- allotment tour or allotment stories
- best stories
- best photos
- Flower symbol for Roath? Or plant combinations?
Please get in touch if you want to be involved in a ‘Made in Roath‘ gardens project this October, or if you have seen projects in other cities that worked well.