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By Emily Unsworth-White

This year Global Gardens was awarded funding by the Gwendoline and Margaret Davies sisters to facilitate two artist residencies. These residencies were centered around cyclic patterns within the garden, solar, lunar and the Celtic festivities which traditionally celebrated them.

By celebrating the seasonal calendar we root ourselves to our surroundings, community and history.

Cath Little, Welsh storyteller and singer and Emily Unsworth-White a visual artist were the two artists engaged in the Seasonal Connections residency program. As a professional storyteller, Cath frequently celebrates in the seasons. She has hosted a number of seasonal singing events within the garden, including the wassail event at Global Gardens at the beginning of the year. Emily also explores seasonal connections in her art practice, advocating for nature connections, community and health of our ecosystems through nature based celebrations. Last autumn she held a seasonal crafts workshop at the garden.

The two artists created a number of outcomes for the residency, including multiple public events within the garden space. These events began in early October with an Autumn Equinox celebration. This family event included seasonal song and story from Cath within the fire space and whilst parading around the different areas of the garden. Leading the parade with song and recorder, Cath was closely followed by the Autumn Equinox banner, one of eight produced by Emily Unsworth-White for the garden. See this blog for more information on each banner. This was a chance for those attending to experience all areas of the garden during harvest time. Participants were encouraged to bring something back for the harvest table, which included fruit, flowers and colourful leaves.

After the parade, the group sowed Rye seeds, a tradition for this time of year and symbolic of returning to the ground in the darker months to come. The Equinoxes bring equilibrium to night and day with longer nights ahead.

Closing with a cuppa and cake, individuals wrote notes of gratitude to the harvest, garden and community of Global Gardens which were tied to the tree above the harvest table. Some of the participants stayed on into the later afternoon for a seasonal craft session with Emily. In this craft session the group made wreaths and tokens from the harvest table to bring the colours and gifts of Autumn into their homes.

The Autumn Equinox celebration was an opportunity for the community to get together after a busy summer and connect with the autumn changes in the garden. In stopping to consider the seasonal shift which is underway we acknowledge the shift within ourselves and our place within the environment.

During the following Saturdays of October, Emily hosted a succession of free felting workshops for a small group which registered via Eventbrite. Through this short course participants felted their ‘familiar’ into a puppet. During Emily’s time in the residency, she has looked into the folklore of animals and trees, investigating how they represent certain qualities of times of the year. The group began by trying out a number of techniques to ‘find’ their familiar. These included a spinning dance which ties points of the compass and calendar to animals. In this series of workshops, participants were encouraged to explore the garden, the season and the materials with curiosity and playfulness.

Over the 3 sessions the group explored the intricate details of their chosen animal and experimented with movement, combining the capabilities of the wool with the observed movements of the animal itself. As each puppet evolved they took their maker on a maiden flight. The puppets moved through the garden surroundings with grace and ease, interacting with each other and the garden space. Multiple areas were used for these workshops including the fantastic classroom space which provided shelter and warmth on wetter days. The wool used in this workshop was sourced from a rewilding project in the Peak District. The techniques taught to form the puppets included needle felting, wet felting, carding and hand stitching.

Emily chose to lead workshops in animal puppet making as she intended for the participants to experience the garden and their surroundings in new ways. When guiding a puppet, we become sensitive to new ways of being, of movement and interaction. The group made some fantastic puppets, which you can see in the video and images above.

The Samhain celebration at the end of October marked the end of Cath and Emily’s artist residency. They closed this chapter of Seasonal Connections with a collaborative event to mark the time of year at which the Celts historically held their new year. Mirroring the Autumn Equinox celebration, Cath shared a story and song based upon the mythology of Samahin. For this celebration a fire was lit and fed offerings of sticks and sage by the group. Many of the felting participants joined for the event and Cath incorporated their puppets into storylines. This time the Samhain banner led the group on the garden parade alongside Cath's recorder. As the group passed through the garden, they noticed the small changes over the last month of the seasons changing.

The group were invited to write a ‘winter wish’ which was tied to a stick and fed to the fire. The event finished with a beautiful feast from Pali, which warmed everyone as they sat around the fire and chatted in smaller groups.

In Celebrating Samhain we recognise the shift over to the darker months and cherish this time together with food next to the fire. Offering a winter wish helps us to look forward to our favorite times of winter, getting cozy, good food and rest. Cath’s stories reminded us of the mysterious magic of these longer nights.

Over this residency the community of global gardens has had an opportunity to celebrate the seasons creatively. During this period, the garden has welcomed new individuals and families. Global Gardens continues to create community and nature connections which are so vital within the city.


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