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I was back on our garden in St. Ann’s Square yesterday. It was the Flower/Jazz mash up day when the Jazz Festival moved out of its hub in Albert Square and joined us on the garden festival site. It was a potent and popular combination. There were two stages for jazz, one where I was on St. Ann’s Square and another within hearing on New Cathedral Street.

And the open space in front of our garden was used by a wonderful Samba band that erupted out of the Molton Brown store behind our garden and brought a taste of Rio to a sunny, St. Ann’s Square, Sunday afternoon. They were noisy and good, drawing huge crowds.

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The guy who likes to dance in different places around the city centre joined them throwing some moves in synch with the drumming. He was soon joined by some of the children from the crowd who followed him copying what he did. The Pied Piper of St. Ann’s Square. The crowd loved it and the kids were having a high, old time.

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This cool, little dude didn’t join them on the square but preferred to bust some moves next to his mum on my garden, getting his mojo on in time with the rhythms.

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I did a little video of the Samba band. It’s turned out very little as my iPad was full of media. But it gives you a flavour of the music.

 

There’s a rather good group of kids who live in the Stockport area of the city who play the steel drums rather well. They often get invited to preform at events. They were at Dig  The City today just by my garden. It was cool to hear them but it did make talking hard when they were on. The manager of the Moss Bros store behind my garden came out to complain. He said people couldn’t hear each other in the store. I liked the music.

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So here’s a little video showing the band and you get to see my garden….

Another early start today. Dig The City had asked me to go to Media City to be interviewed by BBC Radio Manchester about the event. I, along with Tim from the Hulme Garden Centre, were there so it was the Tim and Tom show. We were interviewed by Andy Crane. I got up early to sort myself out. I wanted to look my best. For radio. Go figure..

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It was interesting to actually be in the studios themselves. Since the BBC moved a lot of their output from London to Manchester we’ve become quite used to seeing the studios as a backdrop to the news and so on. The weird, circular things are meeting pods by the way. I get nervous when I do something new, like talk to a city of 3,000,000+ for instance. And when I get nervous I need to use the restroom. I was sent in the direction of one but got lost finding myself in an area of make-up rooms where people go to be made to look fabulous. A nice guy stopped and asked if I was lost. I got all star struck because I recognised his voice. It was Simon Calder who is the BBC’s travel correspondent who was there to do a piece about the fun and games at the Calais end of the Channel Tunnel and the problems it’s causing for people trying to get to France through Kent.

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This is BBC coffee. It’s brown and warm but doesn’t taste a lot like coffee…

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Andy was on air in this studio…

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Andy talking to the city with consummate ease while I was …..ing bricks!…

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On the way back to the car the university rowing team was out practising on the Manchester Ship Canal…

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As a last minute thought, I thought it might be a good idea to have a visitor’s book on the garden for people to write any comments, positive or negative, about the garden. I found this rather beautiful and appropriate one in WH Smith’s in the nearby Arndale Centre.

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Of course, I wasn’t letting just anyone write the first comment. I was tempted to ask Bez but, sorry Happy Monday fans, I was looking for someone else. So when Diarmuid Gavin came by for the second look at the garden I asked him if he’d mind opening our visitor’s book. And while he was doing that could he possibly sign it for us. He’s a nice guy and went one better by writing this wonderful comment.

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Well, it’s been a year in the planning, months of growing plants and sourcing things and a week of the hardest, physical work I’ve known. But, as I filled up my little Belfast sink pond on the Post Box Cafe Garden in St. Ann’s Square, the garden was, at long last, complete. The security barriers were down and it was revealed to passing Manchester. And I don’t think we fell flat on our faces in front of the city.

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There have been times when I wondered at the enormity of what I’d taken on and had some real doubts that it would all be realised. Well, I have pulled it off with a great deal of support from some brilliant people who operate out of and around the Post Box Cafe in Chorlton. 

All that we were waiting for was the judgement. That would be coming from Chelsea award winning, TV gardener, Diarmuid Gavin and his team. We had two visits from them through the day. Diarmuid comes across as thoroughly nice, approachable, genuine guy on TV and, I have to say, that’s how I found him. So no pictures of him as I was too busy discussing garden matters with him to take any. But, here are some of Bez from the Happy Mondays who turned up with two very tall friends.

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Late in the afternoon there was an award ceremony for the gardens and, bearing in mind that I am a rank amateur at this garden design business, we were awarded a SILVER GILT! I am delighted! For those who don’t know about garden award rankings in the UK, it’s just below the much converted gold.

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OK, I’ll admit it. I am pleased with how the garden has turned out. It shows perfectly how you can have a garden in a tiny space and have plenty to interest you. People have been kind and complimentary. And, because we have been one of the first gardens to be up and running, we’ve been attracting the attention of the local media. 

First, Eno Eurotor, appeared on the garden. I did a double take as she was actually sat on one of our garden chairs fixing her makeup ready to do a piece to camera. She might not be known beyond the North West of England. She does our local weather and is the cultural correspondent for our part of the world for the BBC. I’d assumed that she just presented but it was soon apparent that she was in charge. She wanted our garden in shot, then it would pan to her talking to the camera and then onto some dancers doing their thing by a garden further up the square. 

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She didn’t like the security barriers around our garden. They spoiled the shot. I’ve wanted them moving for days so I could actually see it properly but to no avail. One word from Eno though and minions sprang into action and the offending barriers disappeared.

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Piece to camera done we fell into conversation. At one point she was going to come back to interview ME about the garden for BBC TV. Can’t say I was thrilled. Eno, composed and immaculate as always, me in stained T shirt, mud stained jeans and a hi-vis vest. I was never going to come out of that well was I? Fortunately I’m still waiting for the call on that one. I’ve still got my interview with BBC Radio Manchester on Saturday morning though.

Later on I had a wander to visit some shoes that have taken my fancy in a Barton Arcade store. They look expensive but I can afford them but I daren’t step inside the shop in the aforementioned stained T shirt, muddy jeans and hi-vis vest. When I got back to the garden another media team had taken up residence on the garden and were about to start and interview with a guy about the importance of Dig The City. I had spoken to these people before over the last couple of days and had got on well so they felt they could impose a bit and start an interview even though I hadn’t given express permission. I was actually pleased that they thought the garden was a suitable backdrop to the interview. They work for a YouTube TV company called Pendleton TV. They’ve done quite a bit of filming of the garden over the last few days so they are going to put together a video for us.

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The view from my temporary office in Central Library while I tweet and blog….

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I have to say that today has been the most relaxed and enjoyable day for me at the Dig The City Urban Garden Festival. All the hard work of the last few days is behind us and all I had to do was a little tweaking of the display and to dress it up with the props we have. So I got in early and did just that. Then it was just chatting to the passing public and watch people on other gardens rushing about finishing their’s. I did help with a neighbouring garden this morning. Some may be working late into the evening to get things ready. I shall have a relaxing evening trying to decide which shirt I will wear for the opening tomorrow. 

Some pictures of the dressing of the garden. Public reaction has been positive so far and I’ve been offered hard cash for some of it….

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I have really been looking forward to today. It’s the day that I get to put out the plants on the garden in St. Ann’s Square. So it was up at stupid o’ clock and I’m wandering around the garden in the rain trying to move plants from the back to the front of the house. And checking them for slugs and snails with which I’ve been at war with for the last few weeks.

We were on the motorway by 6.15 am and in St. Ann’s Square by 7am. And so to work…

At 7am the garden looked like this….

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By 10am there had been some progress….

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By 2pm it was getting there….

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By 4pm it looked like this. Still awaiting the apple trees and in need of a few tweaks and dressing tomorrow. I felt satisfied with what I’d achieved….

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Got home and my Banksy ‘Flower Bomber’ T shirt had arrived so I can wear it at the festival…

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Well, it’s been a long day. And I’m actually on leave from work! I’ve never really got the hang of being on holiday. But it’s been worth it. We achieved everything we needed to do today and I really looking to the fun part of the build tomorrow when I get to arrange all the plants I’ve been growing.

While I was waiting for Pete and Chris to arrive in the big, green van with the tonnes of wood chippings, I had time just to look around me and our position in the festival on St. Ann’s Square. Our position couldn’t be better surrounded by some of the best architecture and cultural institutions in the city.

St. Ann’s Church through the trees….

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The Royal Exchange Theatre….

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Barton Arcade….

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I’d heard of ‘The Soldier’s Gate’ at Victoria Station but have never found it. The station has been in such chaos for such a long time and not a place to linger and gaze that I’ve never gone looking. But, with the magnificent new roof in place and the station flooded with natural light, it’s been transformed into a place where you want to stand and stare. 

The Soldier’s Gate was one used in World War 1 for men, from Manchester and the surrounding towns and villages, to go through on their way to the battlefields of France and Belgium. And, as the memorial by it points out, many never returned to their city. 

It’s no longer used as a way into the station and has been blocked by an sheet of steel. It’s a memorial to all the men who marched through this gate, never to return. It looks as if it’s been riddled with bullet holes. But each hole represents the position of a British military cemetery across northern France and Belgium. Reading the explanation on the adjoining plaque and seeing the number of bullet holes, their size varying depending on the number of British dead buried in a particular place, I did tear up. It’s a simple and unexpected and very moving memorial. 

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