The Hollyhocks of Arnold Circus
The majestic hollyhocks of Arnold Circus are one of the highlights of the horticultural year in the East End – thanks to Andy Willoughby, the gardener whose hard work and imaginative planting made everyone recognise the beauty of the bandstand at the heart of the Boundary Estate after decades of neglect. Andy is supported by the Friends of Arnold Circus who engineered the recent renovation of the park and, although this process involved the temporary uprooting of many of the plants, last summer the gardens were restored to their former beauty with the hollyhocks soaring above all else.
Ever ingenious at seeking ways to improve the environment of Britain’s first council estate, the Friends invited sculptor Rachel Whiteread, who lives nearby, to create a limited edition print that could be sold to support the maintenance of the gardens. Fresh from producing her golden foliate designs upon the facade of the Whitechapel Gallery, Rachel Whiteread made a print inspired by the shape of the hollyhock seeds that Andy Willoughby gathers each year to propagate seedlings for the coming spring.
Launched last December, the edition of one hundred and twenty five prints is already half sold, ensuring that Andy can continue gardening for another year and now, with spring approaching, packets of hollyhock seeds have been produced including Rachel Whiteread’s design. Yet these are no common or garden seed packets, but hexagonal origami contrivances designed by Masaki Miwa at Åbäke in Hackney which echo the shape of the octagonal bandstand at Arnold Circus.
Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographer Patricia Niven followed the whole process from the harvesting of the seeds, through the folding and filling of the packets, involving a whole host of local people. And now we just need your help – to buy these packets of seeds, thereby assisting the flourishing of the gardens at Arnold Circus and, at the same time, adorning the East End with thousands of hollyhocks in the summer of 2013.
Hollyhock seeds gathered at Arnold Circus.
Rachel Whiteread signs her print inspired by the hollyhock seeds.
Rachel Whiteread’s hollyhock seed screen print, produced in an edition of one hundred and twenty-five.
The launch of the print at Leila’s Cafe last year.
The design for the seed packet by Masaki Miwa at Åbäke incorporating Rachel Whiteread’s print.
Arnold Circus gardener Andy Willoughby gets to grips with folding the origami seed packetss.
Andy Willoughby & Alice Herrick, project curator, show off their folded seed packets.
Hollyhock seeds from Arnold Circus.
Jean Locker, resident of Arnold Circus, filters the seeds she gathered with Andy Willoughby.
Hannah sorts the seeds.
The seed packing production line at Leila’s Cafe last week.
Jean Locker, Rose Pomeroy, Leila McAlister, Hannah & Tulsi sorting and measuring seeds, filling and sealing packets.
Approximately one hundred seeds go into each of the three hundred packets.
Tulsi and Annegret Affolderbach-Dlamini with a finished packet.
Hollyhock hexagons are on sale now at Leila’s Shop for £5 in aid of the gardens at Arnold Circus.
Grow the majestic hollyhocks of Arnold Circus in your garden this summer.
Top photo of hollyhocks © Andy Willoughby
Last photo of hollyhocks © Alice Herrick
All other photographs copyright © Patricia Niven
Copies of Rachel Whiteread‘s limited edition silkscreen print can be bought online from Galerie Simpson. Prints and the packets of seeds are on sale at Leila’s Shop, 15-17 Calvert Ave, E2 7JP. Please come to celebrate the launch of the seed packets at Leila’s Shop on Monday 25th March 5-8pm.
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