Working with the Homeless in Colchester - New Roots Project ... or making a couch potato

Couch Potatoes - made by creative homeless people of Colchester

In spring of 2014 we were asked if we would like to work with the Colchester museum service to create an allotment and an installation in Castle park in collaboration with themselves nad the homeless people of Colchester. So we did. You can see the results as a Google Storyline

The allotment was created on the Big garden site, in High wood park in Colchester, over 3 weeks we put up a poly tunnel and made 8 raised beds in the cusp of the spring and then started planting frantically.

Ciera the curator and creator of the project came every week with lunch and tea and coffee and taxi loads of folk ready for a few hours of gardening. Aidan worked fantastically creating and then planting then making scarecrows ... and most of all Ciera listened to the stories that come out to make a series of exhibitions about the stories of these hidden people.

A key part of the project was the installation – that was to be created above ground at the back of Holytrees museum in Castle park in Colchester. I am not sure how it came about but it was decided that the containers for the plants would be furniture from Emmaus, a homeless project, and we would somehow make a room outdoors. After much thought the creative spark comes when least expected , and one hot lunch time on a playing field in a school I realised that we could plant the sofa with potatoes to make a “couch potato” once this idea was given the crew at the allotment the ideas came thick and fast. “a bed of roses”, chillis in the gas fire, leeks and peas in the toilet, marigolds in the sink, lavender in the draws.

So we gathered the furniture and in one very surreal afternoon planted the bed of roses and the couch potatoes and so on, we grew this all on for a few months and then put it all together to create a room – a kind of bed sit outdoors at the back of the museum

It looked beautiful, it made people laugh as they clocked the associations of plants and furniture, it made people realise how difficult it must be living outdoors without a home as the furniture got wet, and above all it gave the people who made it a huge buzz !