Ground Zero to Rainbows on Ilkeston Road

Last week (January 2023) I walked from Primary to Christ Church Gardens and then on to the University of Nottingham Jubliee Campus.

A walk down Ilkeston Road.

First, I entered the gardens to see if anything had grown back from the recent clearance of all plant life other than trees and grass – as you can see when you get to 2023 in Frank’s video. The council are preparing to do up the playground and plant a wildflower meadow in the gardens but have gone about it in a very destructive way, considering there were wonderful established native flowers and shrubs already in the gardens – that we surveyed as part of an art/ecology activity with Mellers Primary school in 2021. We were also told that the digging had been done by the road diggers – and it shows! All the wonderful plant and insect diversity including the colonies of ladybirds that Martin knew so well, and the berries for winter food have gone.

I hunted high and low and found a few crocuses and a snow drop – one that Frank planted some years ago as an experiment to see if he could grow his footprints as snow drops in the grass.

New buds have appeared on the cherry trees, a hint of Spring to come and this year’s meeting under the blossoms – with Future Machine and a surprise guest.

Feeling low, but excited about our negotiations with Nottingham City Council to replant and take over the rose circle in the middle of the gardens and plant 5 areas in the alcoves along the wall to represent the 5 senses. Hopefully some of the insects and other life will return as we help the council replant.

This year we are going from Ground Zero to blossoms, watching what happens as Spring arrives in the gardens, what grows back. We will be inviting people to join us in imagining, replanting and bringing the gardens back to life.

I left the gardens and headed down Ilkeston Road. A road I know so well having previously lived on Douglas Road and Balfour Road that lead off this busy main road out of town – and I’ve been a resident at Primary Studios (opposite the gardens) since 2013 – so it feels like home.

I crossed over and walked past one of the recently most celebrated spots in Nottingham – the space where Banksy graffitied a girl playing hula with a broken bike tyre during the time when Nottingham was put into lockdown because of the high number of Covid cases.

As the many hopes and dreams that things might radically change after the lockdowns have come crashing down, the street has returned to it’s former un-glory. The graffiti has been long sold to a private collector, the artworks that have periodically replaced it have each been destroyed, leaving a ripped poster memoralising the graffiti and mourning it’s loss. No one is visiting this spot anymore.

Lamp pose with stickers and a chain with a block attached to it in front of a red brick wall with a ripped poster and image of Banksy's graffiti of a girl with a tyre around her middle doing the hula and layers of graffiti tags on top

Feeling even lower I carried on walking, as it began to rain, and wished I had remembered my hat.

I started to think about how much time now is spent on ‘When the Future Comes’ managing difficulties and threats, dealing with councils and changes that are creating restrictions not opportunities.Yet, more and more people are joining the project. New things are emerging with every season changing – such as the eco-art residency and the resulting weather jams in Finsbury Park and the wonderful drumming school students who are playing and dancing along with Future Machine and the weather.

As I felt increasingly sad and frustrated I looked up to see a rainbow emerging from the grey skies , lighting up the gloomy streets. I couldn’t stop smiling and thinking again about fleeting hope.

Yet no one else seemed to see it. A woman and her child ran past at that moment, the woman was crying.

The rainbow got stronger. A full half circle rainbow.

Another woman walked past, at a similar pace to me. She was struggling to keep an umbrella in front of her face to ward off the rain. As she passed me I said to her, laughing with happiness ‘Can you see the rainbow?’ too late I realised she had headphones on and hadn’t heard or seen me – or the rainbow.

The rainbow became two, the higher one more translucent, the lower deep shades of all the colours.

A woman cleaning a windowed door grinned and nodded at me as she watched the rainbow through the glass.

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