Street artists create Forest of Somers Town around two condemned Portsmouth blocks

Around 20 street artists have created a wall of trees in Somers Town in the hope members of the community will make their mark on it.

Tuesday, 23rd November 2021, 2:17 pm

The Forest of Somers Town sprang into life this weekend – but the painted trees have been left bare of leaves.

It’s hoped that families, school children and anyone else with a link to Somers Town will leave their handprint on the branches to create the leaves.

The background was created on Saturday just gone with the help of volunteers, children from Cottage Grove Primary School and Ark Charter Academy, and from Make in Fratton. Make supports people with disabilities and autism to leave independent lives.

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Lucy Field, left, with Helena Willson, right, at the Forest of Somers Town. Picture: PCC

This Saturday will see people invited to make their handprint between 11am-3pm.

There will be free cake, hot drinks, a DJ and winter wreath-making crafts for adult and children at the corner of Earlsdon Street and Melbourne Place.

Longbridge House resident Ann Ray took part in making the background. She said: ‘It was a pleasure to be a part of this project to help brighten up the community where we live.’

Lucy Field, who is working with the council on plans for the area, added: ‘I got involved in (the) art project because I enjoy taking part in my local community and seeing positive change.

Members of the community at the Forest of Somers Town. Picture: PCC

‘I think art projects like this create the opportunity for bringing people together, which builds community cohesion and the opportunity for creative expression, which boosts a sense of wellbeing.’

The forest forms part of the Somers Town Street Gallery - bringing to life the site boundary around Horatia and Leamington House – the towers being demolished piece by piece.

‘If Somers Town means something to you then we want all your family, friends, work mates, school mates, and anybody else you can think of, to come and join us,’ said Councillor Darren Sanders, cabinet member for housing and preventing Homelessness.

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Cameron Locke from Make at the Forest of Somers Town. Picture: PCC

Non-toxic hand paints will be made available at the session as well as hand washing facilities.

During the community event people can also learn about the latest plans for hundreds of new homes and green space, along with play areas, that could replace the two condemned blocks.

The design team will answer people’s questions about the plans and listen to suggested improvements.

The demolition is progressing and is due to be finished in the second half of next year.

Members of the community at the Forest of Somers Town. Picture: PCC

A community panel is informing the council about its hopes for the area when the blocks are gone.

Cllr Sanders said: ‘We want to hear from you what you think about the direction the plans are going in.

‘The community has led the way on this project from the beginning and we want that to continue.’

As reported, Somers Town artist Skyla Swan launched Somers Town Street Gallery with a stunning 30 metre mural, which she painted on the Park Street stretch of the Horatia House site boundary.

It’s just metres from where she lives and grew up.

Members of the community at the Forest of Somers Town. Picture: PCC

‘My grandparents watched me from their garden while I painted the mural,’ Skyla said.

‘It made us really proud to have made the area in which I grew up brighter and more cheerful.’

The site boundary also includes Somers Town Self-Portrait Gallery - nearly 650 self-portraits by local children and adults.

Email [email protected] if you want to add your artwork to Somers Town Street Gallery.

Call Tim Raw on 07901100537 or email [email protected] to join the community panel, which meets monthly.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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Somers Town mum Samantha Parkinson at the Forest of Somers Town event. Picture: PCC