In 2018 I was commissioned by Wyre Council to create work for King George’s fields in Thornton Cleveleys, in order to kick start future artistic interventions at the site.
To kick off the art projects on King George’s fields, Wyre Council commissioned me to produce temporary installations for the field. The work was to be designed to engage families, encouraging them to explore the fields and interact together, and my interpretations were to relate to one of the features of the site e.g. woodlands, the brook, sport and play, model railway etc. and/or the underlying themes of well being, learning, and appreciation of the environment. As I had a personal interest in, what I perceived to be, the dwindling bio-diversity of the site, I wanted ‘learning and appreciation of the environment’ to be a predominant theme, and after an on-site discussion with Wyre Council’s Tree and Woodland Officer, I decided to focus on one area of the fields initially, producing work relating to, and to be installed in, the newly developed woodland trail.
After a period of initial research I came up with a project that took into consideration the Council’s requirements, and titled it The Trophic Playground. The project would comprise of three installations connected by the concept and themes; a cross generational, family fun aspect coming from the concept of playground games, encouraging inter-generational interaction and exploration, combined with environmental awareness and education, looking at the trophic levels in soil food webs and communicating elements of the woodland ecosystem. With intentional irony I created the installations using concrete, not only for durability, but also to create a juxtaposition between the natural environment and the contentious man made material.
SOIL CORE SAMPLE – ‘BASE’
5 concrete posts were created to represent soil samples (as taken with a sampling auger); they were created to be tactile, multi layered with interesting cracks and crevices to, hopefully, be of interest to insects, and some created to capture rainwater for birds.
Through the ironic use of concrete the work questions the problematic production and use of the material.
With the increase in building in the area (and across the country) our remaining green spaces become ever more important. As more and more housing developments wipe out these precious habitats, humans are having a negative impact on the natural environment, and on a larger scale, the planet. This in turn is damaging to our health and well being. Although there are alternatives to the continuous building of overly large housing developments it would seem that ‘progress’ is sometimes impossible to prevent; how can we do more to integrate nature back into man-made structures? Can the right balance be struck?
The posts also represent the worrying state of our soil quality which has become increasingly contaminated thanks to the presence of man-made waste, full of chemicals not originally found in nature. If we continue to disregard this problem our soil will soon be too nutrient deficient to grow food.
Moss, added to the piece to encourage growth and insect life, also reflects upon how the natural world will continue to thrive in one way or another despite our presence. I visited the installation for several weeks after installation to fill the water pools and photograph any life attracted to the posts; I found greenfly, woodlice, ants, a grasshopper and a sheild bug (Pentatomoidea), and also a lot of evidence showing that birds had been using the pools frequently.
Sadly, later in 2018 the area was vandalised. Trees branches were ripped down and the sculpture was attacked with considerable force, to the point where it was destroyed.
10 concrete stepping stones with leaf designs, set out in a hopscotch pattern, represent some of the trees you can find along the woodland trail. They are positioned according to the typical lifespan of the trees represented.
The idea behind this was to:
• evoke childhood memories and encourage an impulse reaction upon seeing a hopscotch layout to jump and hop across it
• encourage simple outdoor game playing
• encourage learning – children (and adults) can identify the different trees by looking at the leaves, and in doing so feel more of a connection to them.
Further information about how to identify trees and much more please visit can be found on The Woodland Trust website
THE CONCRETE COVERED ANT
Continuing the juxtaposition between the natural environment and the contentious man-made material that is concrete, I created a large ant, symbolising mankind’s impact on these important tiny creatures and the habitats that they rely on.
Ants are arthropods, and there are estimated to be over 12,000 species, varying greatly in their size, morphology and eating habits. They are omnivorous and one of the biggest predators on the earth, operating on three trophic levels; they eat plants, are predators and symbiotically use aphids.
They are tiny ecological engineers that perform a variety of important tasks for our ecosystem. Most ants build nests in the ground, and the labyrinth of tunnels that they create allow air and moisture to get to the roots of plants. They also bring leaves and insects into the nest, which decay and fertilise the surrounding plants. Many feed on insects that might attack garden plants and crops, and in the process of gathering food, they often pollinate flowers and distribute seeds.
As with soil, their importance is often overlooked, and in many cases, they are treated as a pest.
The ant was taken to a local school, Millfield High School, where students discussed the environmental issues and then came up with designs and messages to decorated the ant with.