Saturday, November 14, 2015

Project: 30 Years of Urban Ecology at Stave Hill in Docklands

Some truly nice news for a very pleasant change.  The new 30 Years of Urban Ecology at Stave Hill in Docklands project is a really positive one.  Its intentions are detailed below, but in précis the project is designed to commemorate the 30 years of the development of Stave Hill Ecological Park by creating a plan of walks that will capture the park through the eyes and ears of local residents, focusing on the site through the seasons.  The results will be published on a website for all to learn from and enjoy.

All the text is provided by the Project organizers.  The pics are mine.



We have learned about Stave Hill Ecological Park through collaboration on soundCamp, an ecological and acoustic project which has been based there for two years. This has led to the current proposal for a residency comprising research, outreach and documentation coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Park in 2016.

Stave Hill is the successor to the William Curtis Ecological Park set up by Max Nicholson and the Trust for Urban Ecology (TRUE) in 1976. As such it is a direct continuation of the first urban ecology park in the UK and seemingly the world. Stave Hill was established on derelict former dockland in 1986 and comprises a varied collection of micro-habitats created from scratch on landfill and rubble. Over 30 years it has become a vital green space and a centre for ongoing ecological research and action in an increasingly dense urban area.

There is almost no information available online about this sustained and in many ways unique experiment in environmental, social and personal transformation in the heart of Rotherhithe. To the outsider and to young people it is hard to believe that what appears as a natural landscape has been painstakingly created and maintained, sometimes by the same individuals, over a third of a century. At the same time, the organisation and community sustaining the site has evolved from what appeared initially as a marginal experiment to a case study in community based ecological action. These developments exist as an unofficial history reflected in a living archive of plantings, acquired knowledge and skills, shared experiences of participants, organisational innovations and technical recipes acquired sometimes at great cost - as in the destruction of the site's first interpretation centre by arson.

Our aim is to document this heritage through the eyes and ears of local residents and by focusing on the site through the seasons. We will focus on continuities from the history of TRUE to ongoing work of direct and pressing relevance to how we engage with our common ecological futures. We are equally interested in the seasonal changes and the longer ecological timescales, including cycles of abandonment and re-generation, which give the site much of its value and character.

We propose an extended residency divided into four phases, each linked to a season. Each phase will consist of a preparatory research phase, during which the artists will be working on site. This will lead to a public engagement event, including a walk exploring the site and its environs, and related workshops and activities, together with specific local groups and community based organisations. The outputs of each phase in the form of environmental sound recordings, oral history, texts and images, collected and made by the artists in collaboration with workshop participants, will be archived on a dedicated website and curated in the form of four seasonal walks, each described in a printed booklet and available with additional media online. These will remain as resources for future visitors to explore the area.



Stave Hill Ecological Park, Russia Dock Woodland, Greenland Dock, Lavender Pond
Date: March 2016 (Spring Equinox) 
These events will take place outside in the Park, starting with a site walk, and around the SHED, with a fire it it's cold.
Our aim is to engage with the site directly, using sound and other time based media to elicit responses. Recorded voices will be situated in the landscape. We will compare the current site to pictures taken at its inception and before [see attached] and consider its future. Aims: 1) To review the history of the site since its creation, via the recollections of local residents and key actors.
Method: We will invite participants to interview and record each other on portable recorders, with people of different ages / generations working together. We will also share audio materials and images from the research phase. 2) To explore these historical materials within wider ecological timefames: circadian and circannual. Method: We will work with artist Ky Lewis to make and put up solargraph cameras around the site, to record the changing path of the sun over periods of up to one year. 
Groups involved: TBC through consultation

Stave Hill Ecological Park, Russia Dock Woodland, Greenland Dock, Lavender Pond and Pumphouse
Date: 30APR - 1 MAY
The second walk is a dawn chorus walk, taking place in the context of soundCamp 2016. Many participants will have slept out the night before. They will be joined by others, as in previous years. They will gather at 04.30 and walk in small groups around the site, each group accompanied by an ornithologist. There will be preparation with birdsong ID on Saturday, and a follow-up on Sunday, along with other related activities. Why: Daybreak is unusual because human sounds tend to be low and non human sounds relatively high at this time. As such, daybreak gives a window onto a more biodiverse soundscape than many people have a chance to hear or attend to. Sunday 1st May is International Dawn Chorus Day, when many other people around the world do similar early morning walks. We will also be coming to the end of the 24 hour Reveil radio broadcast, linking ecological and acoustic projects around the world in real time. Method: Soundwalk with supporting workshops and activities, including breakfast. Over the weekend, we will also officially launch the 30th Anniversary year.
Groups involved: TBC through consultation

A day in the Life of Stave Hill:  Summer Holidays walk and workshop
Date: Summer Holidays
This walk and workshop focuses on the changing soundscape of the Park in the course of the day, and on the sounds and sights of Summer in the Park. 1) Botany and cyanotypes Method We will work with a botanist / ecologist to identify plant communities, and photographer Ky Lewis to capture images of them in situ, in a workshop introducing the Cyanotype process. 2) Unheard sounds of Summer Method We will work with portable recorders and live audio streams to explore the micro acoustics of the site, including classic sounds of Summer such as bees buzzing and crickets creaking. Sound recordings will be archived online and as part of World Listening Day on Images will form permanent works on paper including ID information, for long term display on site. Both will feature in devised seasonal walks on paper and online.
Groups involved: TBC through consultation

From the former William Curtis Ecological Park by Tower Bridge, along the Thames, via Stave Hill, to Greenwich
Date: Autumn Half Term
The fourth walk explores The Third Estate: areas of reserve or neglect associated with an increase in biodiversity. We will walk along the river charting fluctuations in the variety and density of sounds, and reviewing their ups and downs over the previous 4 decades, and further into past and future. We aim to experience, elicit and document what can be learned from the interventions of the Trust for Urban Ecology in this area from 1979 to the present, and their implications for the future.
1) The Third Soundscape Method Soundwalk with soundCamp and Jon Best, ecologist. 2) Invisible food Method Wild food foraging in Autumn and outdoors cooking with Invisible Food
Groups involved: TBC through consultation


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