The cold winter nights are getting longer and as the still point of the turning year approaches, now seems a good moment to return to those magical three weeks in May and June, when the inaugural Chelsea Fringe burst onto the scene. Pulsating with first growth vigour and brimming with fresh ideas, the Chelsea Fringe festival transformed the streets of London with its playful programme of pop-up gardens, avant-garde art installations, and horticultural happenings. Feeling nostalgic for those heady days of summer, and reaching for an extra layer of thermals as we type, we decided to revisit some of the festival’s highlights …
– The ‘Floating Forest’ at Portobello Dock: a floating grid of 600 sections of treetrunk, realised by a Montreal design team and funded by the Government of Quebec
– The Garden of Disorientation: Deborah Nagan’s astonishing installation in which a disused Smithfield slaughterhouse was transformed by thousands of mint plants, complete with mojito bar, exhibition space and performance area.
– The Bicycling Beer Garden: the unexpected hit of the Fringe, which featured an amazing bicycle contraption laden with planted-up beer cans, which travelled from venue to venue.
– The Edible High Road: an orchard of fruit trees ‘planted’ outside more than 50 shops along Chiswick High Road and Turnham Green.
– The Vegetable Olympics: several Fringe venues took part in these games, an irreverent take on the Olympics. HRH the Duchess of Cornwall opened the vegetable Olympics for us at Spitalfields City Farm.
– The Oranges and Lemons Garden: young designer Dan Shea created an urban oasis in front of St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch, with help from gardeners involved in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation programme, and staff from the Independent on Sunday newspaper.
– Nature is Culture sculpture: Italian artist Elisabetta Buffa’s head-turning installation in the Broadgate Centre behind Liverpool Street Station. A plant-clad column topped by a miniature park scene.
– Idler’s Grove: a contemplative herb garden created for the Idler magazine salon’s backyard in Notting Hill.
– The Edible Bus Stop: Mak and Will and the other EBS volunteers created a brand new edible bus stop during the Fringe, continuing their dream of creating on-street veg gardens across London, Britain and the world!
– Heavy Plant Crossing: artist Julia Barton gained Arts Council funding to realise this performance art piece, which saw Julia masquerade as a plant breeder, dragging round London a ‘plant’ made of metal and plastic. The climactic gatecrash of Chelsea Flower Show had to be seen to be believed.