Sunday, 16 May 2021

Alban Low & E. E. Rhodes - Urban Bonsais Real and Imagined

Welcome to day two of the exhibition.

Thank you to Paul Wood from the Urban Tree Festival for introducing the Urban Bonsai workshop yesterday; thanks to Glen Reddick for co hosting the event and to Collect Connect's Bryan Benge for joining in. We will see more of Glen and Bryan's art work in the coming days. Finally a big thank you to everyone who attended the workshop yesterday lunchtime, we look forward to seeing your Urban Bonsai creations next year.

There are many events and activities to get involved in this coming week at the Urban Tree Festival. Visit the website for more details. Urban Tree Festival

Today's art work is by Alban Low and words by Electra Rhodes. 

Alban is the co-founder of Collect Connect and is involved in countless creative projects with artists from all around the world. You can see a selection of Alban's work at albanlow.co.uk and alban low | Sampson Low 

E. E. Rhodes is an archaeologist who accidentally lives in the corner of a small castle in Worcestershire. She writes short prose and poetry, and her work features in a range of anthologies and journals. She tweets @electra_rhodes




When I was small my father had hung a sign in the kitchen that read, ‘Beauty Through Utility’. That was how he lived. Water collection. Solar power. Grow-your-own. An off-the-grid, ‘Good Life’ mentality.

When I was older he planted an edible garden, uprooting the lawn, insisting I learned the basics of propagation and harvesting. It was tiresome. He was haunted by the wartime shortages of his childhood. Unrealistic. Obsessed. We didn’t entirely agree.

After the plague hit he’d written I should come. I had written back promising I would. I’m not sure he ever knew I was on my way. 

*           *           * 

Halfway up the hill I turned left and carried on along the broad suburban street. The houses were fading. The concrete pavements were cracked by unchecked roots and a deep layer of leaf mulch softened my footsteps. 

Outside number 15 the old cherry was heavy with fruit. An overgrown fir almost blocked the front door of my father’s house. 

My key still worked and I clambered over branches to get inside. It still smelled like home. Musty. Bookish. Tired. I locked the door after me. The house was quiet. 

The silence could be overwhelming sometimes. I rarely encountered any animals and I hadn’t heard birdsong for years. 

Up in my childhood bedroom I unlocked the window and looked out over the gardens. Fences were down and a tangle of green erased the old boundaries. Next door, the old swimming pool was full of leaf litter, a small tree growing in one end. They’d been so proud when it was built. My father had thought it was odd to use the space that way, though he’d taken a daily dip in summer. 

I went downstairs, unlocked the back door and navigated the crumbling brick steps. A butterfly floated past and bees drifted amongst the lemon balm. I turned and looked at the house. Maybe I could fix the pipes, mend the solar panels, and make a go of the garden. Even find a few other people. 

Survive. Live. Thrive. 

I took a deep breath, then let it go. I’d come home. 

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