Leeds 2023 working with Mafwa Theatre to create green spaces for local refugees to enjoy art and nature

Mafwa Theatre has been working with Leeds Refugee Forum and local women in Lincoln Green to create green spaces where art and nature can be enjoyed by everyone close to home.

By Alex Grant
Sunday, 19th June 2022, 11:45 am

One of around 20 projects involved in a series of commissions for LEEDS 2023, ‘My World My City My Neighbourhood’ celebrate the creativity and culture that exists within the many neighbourhoods of Leeds.

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On Saturday, June 18 an event in Lincoln Green will celebrate local people’s creative endeavours to ‘green’ their local area. Tamsin Cook, Co-Artistic Director of Mafwa Theatre, tells us how being part of LEEDS 2023 has brought the community together.

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Tamsin Cook, Co-Artistic Director of Mafwa Theatre, tells us how being part of LEEDS 2023 has brought the community together.

We’ve been exploring ways to create space in the neighbourhood where the local community could engage with nature. This led to creative workshops called ‘Sow and Speak’ and plans to redevelop an unused playground space into a communal eco-friendly garden.

Work on the garden is now well underway. Many young people have been involved in sowing and planting and, despite a few doubters, the area is flourishing into a positive asset for the community.

Together we’ve been busily planting up over 300 plants and vegetables ready for this Saturday (June 18) when garden will be unveiled at the Roxby Close Get Together, a free celebration event and everyone’s invited.

Anyone dropping by will see some of the creative work that local people have been developing with artists.

I’m looking forward to seeing people’s reaction when they see the new mural we’re unveiling today. Artist and printmaker Jenna Coulthard has used images drawn by local residents with shapes and colours created and chosen by members of the community.

I hope they feel proud to see that their drawings and sketches are literally part of the work that’s been made to ‘green’ their area. We’ll also be sharing photos submitted by local residents highlighting nature on the doorstep.

Photographer Emily Ryalls has been getting the images ready for a photo installation in the neighbourhood to highlight how nature always finds a way to conquer our urban environments!

There will also be lots of craft activities to get stuck into, live music, great food, all that you’d expect at a summer party.

Now we’ve done the planting, we need to fundraise for new outdoor furniture to make the garden somewhere that the community can enjoy spending time. This summer we hope the garden will be a place where local people can relax and enjoy the great outdoors close to home, to just be outside somewhere that feels like a little oasis in a built-up part of the city.

Being part of LEEDS 2023 has helped us to be more visible in Lincoln Green and it’s great that more people know who we are now, what we’re doing and how they can be part of the project in the future, maybe even joining our gardening group, the Lincoln Greeners.

We want the garden to be sustainable in the long term and we need local people to help make that happen. It takes a long time to build trust in a community and we’ve seen an increase in the connection we have with people in the area.

There’s a recognition and understanding that we’re doing something worthwhile and a hope that it will make a positive difference for everyone living here now, in 2023 and beyond.