Look At It This Way - June 27, 2014

Self-styled 'guerilla planter' Paul Whitehead
Self-styled 'guerilla planter' Paul Whitehead
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I come from a long line of guerrilla gardeners...My dad rescued a beech sapling from wasteland in Liverpool long ago. It outlived him long after both relocated to Blackpool.

We’ve got bluebells that can trace their lineage back to my grandmother’s “rescue” 
missions.

My mother, a child of the Blitz, used to rescue and 
replant flowers from bombed out gardens.

That kind of behaviour grows on you. I replant trees uprooted by winds or vandals. On one occasion, in the 
memorial arboretum at Moor Park, my mum gave me her “knee highs” so I could splint a couple of trees in place.

When The Gazette moved from Preston New Road I carted away hundreds of marigold seed heads from near our old reception office to scatter round areas where they would be left in peace. Their offspring are still going strong today.

English bluebells emerged again this spring from open land opposite sheltered 
accommodation nearby – where I sneaked out under cover of dusk to plant scores of bulbs one year.

But until recently if someone had talked of guerrilla gardeners I’d have thought of those awful lifesize gorillas sold in local garden centres to aspiring David Attenboroughs who won’t take gnome for an answer. Turns out guerrilla gardeners go forth and seed bomb regularly to 
multiply flowers and help birds and bees. There’s even an online network devoted to their 
efforts. Some, such as local 
urban warrior Paul Whitehead, plant up spaces for others, at minimal price, and transform wastelands into verdant mini 
orchards and vegetable plots so others can reap the 
benefits.

It didn’t stop some swine nicking the trailer of Paul’s Pedalable Edibles bike when he was doing his latest good turn. Not that it’s going to stop Paul and that’s good news for those who value his green fingered guerrilla efforts.

I love it when ward councillors use some of their budget to facelift parks and public spaces – as has happened at Devonshire Road rock gardens and Eastpines and Anchorsholme parks. It’s a lot better than just getting a Christmas tree each year.

Some wards seem to save the best efforts for In Bloom judgment rounds. But they’re just passing through. The rest of us live here all year. Some are simply more public spirited than others. Last weekend, Civic Trust members worked round the clock to save the scarecrow festival after 11th hour vandalism and theft.

I also admire those 
residents who take the trouble to plant up the verges beyond their borders, even round the base of telegraph poles and lamp posts.

One of my heroines is 
local solicitor Dana Gledhill of Blackpool’s indomitable 
Goalden Girls who got the late Steve Weaver, former chief executive, on side for her campaign to improve seafront aesthetics – and ultimately to help install an artwork in tribute to frontline emergency services.

Each time I see the Blue Light monument I think of Dana’s tenacity, all those meetings, fund-raisings, and persuading people to back her. It proves one woman can make a difference.

I’ve got another great role model. The other day my mother, now 78, listened to shoppers complaining about all the drinks cans dumped in the beautiful planters on the new paving at Cleveleys, while a chap in a van sat overseeing the watering of plants within. While others talked she walked to the nearby bin and placed all the drinks cans within. No can do? Yes we can...

Art rudderly confusing.....

The last time I saw a car and a boat in an art gallery was at the Dali Museum in Figueres.

The car filled with water each time visitors put a coin in a slot. Blue condoms dangling from the boat above were said to symbolise tears.

Boy, did I need a stiff Rioja after that.

We now have a car and boat at Blackpool’s Grundy art gallery. The doors had to be taken off their hinges to admit both.

Curator Richard Parry said they “pulled out all the stops” to get artist-poet Heather Phillipson’s exhibition here.

The gallery is said to have been transformed into a 
giant human body. Phillipson is said to challenge the resort’s “idea of art.”

I’ll say...

Admittedly I’ve had my fill of pretty pictures, grim portraits and netsukes at the Grundy over the decades.

I like contemporary art and it’s taken a long time to get a look in locally.

But how great a crowd puller is an exhibition likely to prove when entitled 
“Yes, surprising is existence in the post-vegetal 
cosmorama” ?

I’ve no idea what that means – and it’s not going to trip lightly off the tongue at the tourist information 
centre when visitors ask what’s on at the Grundy.

“Post-vegetal what? Does it comes with chips?” 
No, just a pinch of salt.