Keeping Pompey Green is a Community Effort

Community activist and founder of Southsea Greenhouse, Sue Stokes, reports on a recent grassroots community arts project, #KeepPompeyGreen, celebrating all things bright and beautiful in Portsmouth. Additional reporting by Sarah Cheverton.

I hear lots of people describing their love for their gardens, or how important parks and green spaces are. There are waiting lists for people desperate for a city allotment, and thousands of us jump in cars or on trains each year to take a trip to the forest at Rowlands Castle, or beyond.

Yet at the same time, many of us increasingly spend more time on the high street or at our keyboards than in our local park. We spend money to perfect our homes but most of us no longer know our neighbours’ names, let alone spend time in our gardens chatting to them.

And how many of us use our community green spaces regularly enough to know the names of the other people we see there? (Dog-walkers not included!)

It was with all these issues in mind that the #KeepPompeyGreen exhibition was born – to remind people about the green spaces  we’re lucky to have in our island city and to highlight the ongoing need for our communities and politicians to protect them.

Flick Drummond MP and Sue Stokes at #KeepPompeyGreen exhibition launch. Photo by Peter Missen.

To do this, we decided to bring together artworks by people of all ages to celebrate and showcase community pride in the wide diversity of green and open spaces here. So, over the course of a month or so, #KeepPompeyGreen asked local people to create and send in their A4 paintings, drawings or photos of Pompey’s green spaces, and the people and animals who live and play in them.

We couldn’t be prouder of the results.

We received over 100 entries from roughly 80 exhibitors over that month. The artworks ranged from sketches of angel statues in graveyards to the seeds of autumn trees patiently fastened to paper by local 3 year old Poppy; from photos of some the city’s oldest trees to images of the windswept marshlands at the edge of Eastney Marshes.

We ran a series of workshops at Teatray in the Sky where we invited people to make their submissions over tea and cake, and to talk to us about their favourite green spaces.

Over the course of the month, we learned that Pompey loves its green spaces as much as all of us involved in #KeepPompeyGreen do, and we learned a lot about bringing people together to work towards a common goal.

Because the #KeepPompeyGreen project and exhibition has been a real community effort.

#KeepPompeyGreen was organised by a group of people who care about green spaces in the city, many of whom are active in community group Keep Milton Green (where you can also enjoy daily photos of this beautiful part of the city). The whole project has been run and coordinated by volunteers.

The exhibition was promoted by volunteers from Southsea Green, Aspex and Star & Crescent. The Portsmouth Partnership Foundation awarded a small community bursary to pay for leaflets and flyers for us to spread the word. The amazing team at Aspex helped us to curate the exhibition and worked with us to mount each submission ready to be proudly displayed on the walls of Le Cafe Parisien. The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress agreed to launch the exhibition preview event for us, and Portsmouth MPs Penny Mordaunt and Flick Drummond gave up their time to pick the winning 20 artworks that will go on to be framed and exhibited at Lakeside 1000 in 2017. Keep Milton Green’s Kimberley Barrett even made a special #KeepPompeyGreen cake.

So, we started off wanting to celebrate how much our green spaces mean to our local communities in Portsmouth and along the way, we also got to celebrate our local communities and everything we can achieve when we work together.

But most of all, #KeepPompeyGreen reminds us that no matter how far we roam, there’s no place like Portsmouth and no people like Pompey folk.

Whether your favourite place is the seaside, the marshes, the open common or a tiny city centre park, we all love Pompey’s green and open spaces – the places we go to daydream, to read or meet friends, to walk the dog or even just to clear the cobwebs from our minds.

The exhibition launch took place on 2nd December at Le Cafe Parisien, but you can visit the exhibition all over the Christmas period and it will be back for Christmas 2017.

Don’t forget to give it a visit if you’re passing and get involved with making this Christmas a real community one by dropping in a donation to support Cafe P’s free hot meals on Christmas Eve.

And in the meantime, of course, #KeepPompeyGreen!

Exhibition images by Peter Missen.

Christmas Eve meal image from Le Cafe Parisien.