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Arlington Square Gardens: starting out

I’m delighted to be part of the Mixed Borders project for London Open Garden Squares weekend, 13-14th June. I’m going to be poet in Residence in Arlington Square Gardens, in Islington.

If you don’t know it, this garden is a gem. Yes, it is a public open space, a recreational park for all, but the local community gardening group have transformed it completely. There is a profusion of plants, in some places you would swear that you had stumbled into a botanic garden. So one thing I know is that there needs to be quite a strong community focus to whatever I do – and probably quite a lot about plants.


Old olive tree in Arlington Sq.

This is not the first time I’ve put on community-focussed poetry – but it is the first time I’ve had an official title to live up to – Poet in Residence.

The planning phase is very much like facing a blank sheet of paper to corral that vague cloud of ideas trying to become poems. The vague cloud of ideas is being helped along by the gardeners and community around the garden. I have a very helpful tree map which suggests possibilities (what personalities do different trees have?) and some cursory online research has piqued my interest with the suggestion that the square was used as a barrage balloon tether site in WWII. Barrage balloons were made at RAF Cardington, where two airship sheds still dominate the Bedford skyline, so there is a home connection for me – if the story proves true. I’m going to visit the local history centre at the Finsbury Library to try to find out.

At the moment the emerging plan is to have some kind of activity for all – putting myself on the hook to turn out a poem from the results by the Sunday afternoon (the garden is open 10-5 Saturday 13th and 2-5 Sunday 15th). Some poems in the garden and some sort of reading. Some…some sort of….some….