meeting Friends of Marsden Park

A workshop with Friends of Marsden Park enlightened me to how much the local community is investing in this space.

The group meets regularly and consists of local residents as well as representatives of  the Nursery and primary school who use the park.  They put on events and dedicate a lot time planning and organising to ensure their success.

Friends of Marsden Park

Originally a Neighbourhood Watch, this group of people bring positivity and energy to make Marsden Park a place enjoyed by all.

For this workshop I prepared lots of quick ‘tasks’ in response to the park, such as ‘If a new entrance was to be installed, what should it look like and where should it be placed?’ and ‘What kind of animal is the park’ . Some lively discussions followed with imaginative descriptions of the park, and an insight into its history and its present state.

Friends of Marsden Park  Friends of Marsden Park

Friends of Marsden ParkFriends of Marsden Park

The Zone

The Zone is a local youth centre situated at the bottom of Marsden Park. I popped there one evening last week with Lee Johnson, and met the staff. It was recently redesigned with a lot of input from the young people who use it. I was invited to join girls’ night.

Not sure where to begin the conversation, I tore up a large piece of paper. On the torn pieces I wrote lots of park-related questions.

questions answers

The girls picked up the torn pieces and wrote their answers on the back. Once the girls started writing they just kept going, and their comments led to lots of interesting discussions. I got my pieces of paper back full of notes, with frank and funny responses. Here are the questions and answers:

Is Nature Good?

“I don’t know what nature is?”

“Everything that God made is nature but I don’t believe in God…”


Do you prefer the lawns or the forest?


“A Bitta Both.”


Do people say hello to you when they pass by?

“Old People.”


Have you ever been scared in the park?


“Yes Very.”


Is there park welcoming?

“I am too old for the park. 15!”

“You are too old for parks at 12/13.”

“I have never been to Marsden Park.”

“Of course.”

“No because the police move you on if you’re 14.”


Is the park safe?

“no, not at all”

“in the morning the night time no!”


Do you have any nice memories of Marsden Park?

“I spend my life on Marsden park.”

“Yeah but I can’t be bothered writing.”


Do you know any local myths?

“Candy man + White lady”


Is the park better than a walk in the county side?

“no, cos you can see sheep in the country side.”

“Yes if you want to socialise but the country side is better if you want a long, quiet walk with”

“the one you love. awn taht’s cute is”


Is the park better than a private garden?

“I think so yes, because you can have more of a social gathering.”

“Yes because you can socialise more”

“No because a garden is safe.”


Do you have enough nature in your life?

“No, but parks provide a small bit of nature in the town!”


Do you have any childhood memories of the park?


“Yeah a lot.”


Would you walk alone in the park?

“no, cos you can not be too sure who is around, and anyone around could kidnap you.”

“Nope not at all.”



Is there anything really wild in the park?

“yeah, the pissheads.”

“Danny Oddie.”

“Just Everyone.”

“Crazy women/men.”


What do you think of Marsden Park?

“Its scary…”

“Marsden park is a really nice park if you are young because there is lots of toys to play with but there is nothing for older people.”

I thought to exhibit the girls’ comments in the park for others to discover.

I gathered the torn pieces of paper into the shape of a bat. This image came to mind because Marsden Park has bats, and when I was told of ‘unwanted activities at nighttime’ from young people in the park, somehow the bats and teenagers amalgamated into one.

ground bat

For a few days the bat lived on the ground at the bottom of the park, where young people from the Zone are likely to pass. The bat then moved to the top of the park. Here is is flapping its wings between two trees:


bat wing

The Girl on the Right

As I was walking towards the playground, I asked a young mum about her views on the park. ‘Kids are drinking in the playground. It needs to be cleaned up!’ she said.

From a distance I was not sure if it’s a good idea to disturb the young people sitting on the playground swings in the late afternoon, drinking cans and smooching. When I came closer, explained who I am they were very pleasant and polite, and I realised how easy it is for people to mistake them for trouble makers. These were nice kids, drinking fizzy drinks, and enjoying the swings as much as young children do. I asked if I can draw them when we talked. Here is a sketch:

Girl on the Right






The girl on the right is 21 years old. She grew up around here, spending her childhood in Marsden Park. Her parents decided to move because they think the area became too rough. “You don’t want to be here after 6.30, that’s when all the drug addicts come here. And under-aged drinking.”

“I am not under-aged!” her friend interjected.

“Then she can’t have been talking about you.” I suggested.

We talked about art and parks. I explained there is a next phase to this project, and we talked about what it might be. The girl on the right said the work should be something that shows the nature in the park and how it used to be, a monument of what the park used to be and where it is now. This struck a chord with me, and made me recall the War Memorial with the empty step in Nelson.

I asked them if they think young people have a bad reputation.

“as soon as they see us they think we are up to no good,” said the girl in the right.

To end our discussion I asked them – if the park was an animal, what kind of animal would it be?

A cheetah, or leopard, they said. Why? Because there is no way to tame it. If it was a piece of art, where should it be placed? Where there is a lot of light, on a clean piece of grass.

What else is missing from Marsden Park?

Su Brown is a local artist who works with watercolours.

After giving me some painting tips, she took me around Marsden Park, showing me her paintings in-situ.  ’I walk the dog everyday, and I see things constantly altering,’ She says. Here in a painting she did of the  conservatory before it came down:


People here tell me of many elements that have disappeared over the years, but the memory of the  conservatory seems to hold a special place in their heart. People in Nelson reminisced about it too, but it I get the feeling it is especially missed by the Friends of Marsden Park, whop would take turns opening it to the public on a Saturday, and this shared space and its responsibility brought the community together.

A couple stopped by as we were photographing Su’s painting and shared their memories: “The Friends group had a rota. We used to do two hours.  And Stanley would bring you a cup of tea on a tray.”  The conservatory used to have rabbits, badgers, birds, I am told. It was damaged by a storm and there was not enough money to repair it. They kept a visitors book. It’s around somewhere. You can just see the outline where it used to be. On a positive note, Su says: “One thing’s good now. The clock’s now working where it never used to.”



Castercliff Primary school in Marsden Park 22.10.2012

Today children from Castercliff primary school made up stories in the park. They are learning about writing stories in settings, and so the park was a perfect place for them to use for their project.Castercliffe Primary school

Castercliff Primary schoolCastercliff Primary school

After a walk in which their teachers reminded them to use all their senses, they wrote down imaginative and perceptive observations of the park, which they will incorporate into stories back in class.

Posted from London, England, United Kingdom.

Drawing in public places

There is something wonderful about working in public spaces. It is that element of chance that seeps into your work, which you can try to artificially recreate in a studio environment, but it’s not quite the same thing.

This Sunday I started watercolouring in the park, working in large sheets to create mini-spectacles and raise curiosity. It didn’t take long, with people coming and saying ‘I hope you don’t mind, I’m just being nosy’.

I placed a sheet of paper on the ground, and started painting the Egyptian gate, more commonly known as the Wishing Gate. It has a bird sculpture at the top with a missing head.  As I was pondering whether to draw the broken bird or add the imagined missing head, a dog trod on my drawing leaving his paw print exactly where the bird is, completing my picture for me.

wishing gate drawing

The White Lady

If you ask, some say she was a resident during the time when the Old Hall was occupied by a Doctor and was temporarily converted into a Mental Asylum for wealthy clientèle.

Others tell you, yes,  when we were children, we would dare each other to go into the ‘dungeons’ and then scream: ‘the White Lady is coming’ and run away.

A few people have never heard of her.

To bring the myth back to life, I made a string-puppet version of her. Here she is, sighted by different people at the Chapel Arch next to the Old Hall, animated by the wind.

sightings of the white lady




sightings of the white ladysightings of the white lady

sightings of the white ladysightings of the white ladysightings of the white lady


The Portable Park – 20.10.2012

portable park

portable park

I decided it was time to take the park for a walk around town. Today I took part in the Portas Event at Nelson. We started at the ACE Centre, and got a free market stall where I placed the Portable Park and some of its ingredients. I invited people to come and make a picture of a park using these ingredients. I met lots of interesting people, some were familiar with Marsden Park, others say they’ve never been. One gentleman recalled his teenage years in the pavilion: ” We used to sit around in the pavilion with a tape-recorder and listen to Pink Floyd, we’ve had some good times there”.  Another gentleman reminisced about his friend, Jim Coles: “He was a really intelligent man. He used to have a garage opposite Marsden Hall with old cars. The garage is still there. One lady remembered the Old Hall when it was a restaurant, and spoke highly of the fish. She told me: “Personally I wouldn’t go thre now because I don’t feel it’s safe and have no one to go with.”

I asked people which parks they visit, and what makes a good park.  A nice family came down from Colne, and listed the parks they like Leyland and Worden park has nice paths to ride your bikes, play area and minigolf, a maze, an ice cream shop. They were on their way to see the sculpture trail in Barley. What kind of art do they like, I asked. Something interactive, so you can touch it, that moves, ‘ was the answer.

picture of a park

I also met a softly spoken man called Michael Mruoding, who told me some sad stories. He used to walk the park everyday when he had a dog. She passed away. He spoke lovingly of the county, saying ‘that’s why people who come stay round here.’ He mentioned the shopping centre that opened in the 60′s: “When I was only 5 my dad took me when it first opened. When they built it it destroyed the community.” I heard this sentiment in different circles.

After a few hours at the ACE, I decided to take the park to the shops. Our first stop was Naeem fabric shop. I was instructed to take a photograph almost as soon as I walked through the door. Here it is:


Next I went to a Polish delicatessen opposite. ‘Do you go to the park?’ I enquired. ‘I have no time,’ confessed the smiling young man apologetically. We ended the day in the library. ( I was not allowed to take a photograph inside the library for some reason.)   A few curious children gathering round me. ‘What have you got there?’ they pointed. We talked about parks. ‘Do you like parks, are they useful, should we have parks in the future?’ A lively discussion sparked up, with the children telling me why parks are important. They didn’t need to convince me.

portable park




I met Michael Wrigley through Friends of Marsden Park. He shared his early memories with me, taking me round the park.
Michael lived in Marsden Hall from 1948. His dad, Jack Wrigley, was the Parks Superintendent of Nelson.
The windows of his childhood home are now blocked up, but Michael’s description of Marsden Hall is so vivid he seems to breathe life into the architecture.

We went round and created a memory trail of what has now been removed from Marsden Park. Michael explained in detail what was demolished, altered, stolen or mysteriously disappeared, pausing at the Bothy, the swimming pool and cafe, the peacock statue, the missing railing, the bandstand and the old playground site.

Walking round the park with Michael made me start seeing things that are not quite there. An outline of the queue of people waiting to get into the swimming pool on a hot day started to form. I imagined Michael as a boy sledging down the slope where the football posts now stand.
When I walk through the gardens I can now see colouful flower beds, Jack Wrigley’s work space and young Michael’s play space.