The Soi/uls and the City

My garden is Coventry
It is shaped by multifaceted flows of matters
And energy unfolding their forces
To grow and feed the city’s souls

My garden is Coventry
A plot for pre-selected migrating seeds to sprout
Simultaneously a how it is and a what it’s not
Growing oscillations in-between silent
Night walk in commons and busy peak hours’ traffic
Before my eyes a shared garden cut unequally

Away from home,
A way to homesickness
A home to grow and rest
On the weeds of change
Four-leaf clovers
Escaping from Bayer’s
Chemical-sprayed (de)limited garden
Failing to provide a space for so many beings
To be, root, bloom, and grow safely

My garden is Coventry
Organised chaos fed by faceless nutrients
Power in-balancing
In my garden, Coventry
Every soul has a right to soil
No justice, no peace.


‘Earthworks’ creates a photographic study of the Northumbrian allotment; repurposing the energy used by its owners and the rituals that take place in cultivating soil for future use, the ‘earthworks’. It concerns local committees in Northumberland, conversation, social positivity and the importance of green spaces.

The act of taking the image is a constant pilgrimage of returning home, combined with the use of ‘slow’ photography where I am able to be with the land. The image-taking has many purposes; ritual, pilgrimage, meditation and purely walking and talking with family members and members of the community linking to such land. I use this time as research, where conversations take place of history and locality. In discussing roots and soil, Crouch and Ward state that “for many of us, the only experience of land is as an observer…in the allotment, people participate in using the earth”, in order to endorse myself in the roots of this exploration, I became part of it. I made a rhythm of making sure time was spent ritualistically photographing the allotment every day over weekends in Northumberland. The land that I work with is often at risk or undergoing change – in this scenario, I worked with two allotments – Amble West, and Tommy’s Field in Morpeth. During this project, I interviewed plot-holders, took video footage and created collections of documentation relating to the land – council documents, news articles, Northumbrian poetry. Some of these images are photographic prints, taken on a large format 5x4 camera, whilst others are photopolymer gravure prints, a form of intaglio printmaking.

David Crouch and Colin Ward (1997). The Allotment: Its Landscape and Culture. Five Leaves Publication.

The Mango Tree

I’ve been looking at trees a lot lately. In particular the mango tree that grows in my garden. The last mango season came and went and no fruit hung from the branches, but instead, a multitude of different forms of life took its place. When the sun sets around 6pm and the call to prayer warbles longingly across the fields and cities, a sharp continuous thud can be heard at the very top of the tree.

Silhouetted against the pink sky, a thousand beetles about the size of a thumb ricochet off each other and the branches, crashing into leaves and making whole boughs sway. The sound is loud enough to make me think perhaps a cat has jumped into the tree and has found itself stuck. A third sound enters, after the prayer call and the beetles, the scurrying of a gecko against the wall and another thud as it lands in the tree. A second gecko comes – the flurry of life above meaning dinner for these normally shy creatures.

Further down the tree, silently working from the ground up, march ants. Three different sizes, carrying leaves, bits of mud, crumbs from the kitchen. They work their way up the trunk, tiptoeing across the washing line and forming a huddle against the back of an ageing leaf. A nest is formed around them, and they are protected in the gentle sway of the leaf against the ruckus above.

Stretching out between the leaves is a spider. Steady, silent, waiting. A network of webs connects the community, some yellow, some black, one spider with a large swollen backside. They await the caterpillars, moths and butterflies that also call these trees home.

A few streets away, another sound is heard, the incessant whining of an electric saw. A sound common across the city where slowly slowly, one-by-one the trees are felled. Felled for land, felled to make way for roads, felled for wood. With each tree felled, one micro-world, all the beetles, the spiders, the ants, the butterflies, caterpillars and geckos lose a home. We speak a lot of protecting the forests, but we should also celebrate and protect the city trees too, the forgotten trees which obstruct telephone lines and whose roots uproot pavements. They remember to sustain life where in day to day life, on the road, at work, on campus we sometimes forget.

But for now, right now, I sit and appreciate this mango tree in my garden, and from her I get both rapturous noise and peace.