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Come & join us on Saturday September 27th for our second URBAN SEED DAY

We will be gathering the seeds from the wild flowers grown at Abbey Gardens this year - some we'll be keeping for next years Harvest Garden but some we'll be giving away. So, if you fancy a bed of wildflowers in your own garden or you've spotted a unloved patch in your local environment that could do with cheering up, this is the event for you.

I will be at the garden, with some of the Friends of Abbey Gardens group on Saturday morning from 10.00 -12.00. As well as collecting seeds we'll obviously be happy to tell you more about What Will The Harvest Be? and how our plans for the garden are shaping up.

We also have a few packets of seeds left (from the wonderful Chiltern Seeds) to give away to anyone who wants to get planting now for next season in the Harvest Garden. If you take some away on Saturday you can bring them on in your own garden (or just on a windowsill) ready for next spring.

If you have seeds gathered from your own gardens/plots do bring some along to swap.

You might like to make an East-London afternoon of it, bring a flask or picnic and join us for the Hackney Wick Festival afterwards, it's an interesting walk from Abbey Gardens to 'the Wick' and makes for a full East End double day out.

The Stratford Grapevine II
Featuring Abbey Gardens

Heard it on the Grapevine

Anyone who travels through Stratford station (East London) may have already seen the feature about Abbey Gardens in the 'Stratford Grapevine' last week ... if you missed it you can read about it here. The newspaper is a project by artist Lucy Harrison who's become a 'friend of' our Abbey Gardens project through our shared research into the area. The sort of spider drawing on the front shows how all the people who have contributed to the paper are linked together, and is a nice map of the connections made. Each time the paper comes out I find it really cheering to see people on the (super depressing!) North London Line reading about their local area rather than the Metro's version of London news.

Tom models the crown-in-progress

King of Exmoor

I was delighted to drop in to Tom Lock's workshop in Hawkridge, after talking to a nice gang of Somerset artists at the 'Reveal' event recently.
I had asked Tom to consider making a 'head-dress' for the Exmoor National Dress a while back, but as his lifetime retrospective (at Hawkridge Show, see pic) was absorbing all his time he declined....But I know real no from a '' and I had a feeling he was going to come up with something good.
Here Tom is modelling the prototype - it will eventually have little antlers in declining size all the way round. The head-dress 'ring' is made of 4 or 5 curved antler pieces carefully glued and sanded, it's quite a feat to find suitably curved pieces let alone to fix them together. What I especially like is the front-most horn, which Tom describes as "freaky" - its a tiny straight horn emerging from a misshapen, bony nugget. He'd had it for years, finding it useless for most of his work, but now has a good use for the freaky!
I tried it on and can confirm that it's actually comfy too....

Breachacha Castle - Coll
Where B&J apparently stayed during their 10 day lock-in

Boswell's B&B

A couple of weeks ago I revisited Coll, a Scottish Island Karen and I breezed through in our 1996 Boswell & Johnson trail blog-a-thon A Hypertext Journal. On our first trip we only had a few hours to explore around the tiny village where the ferry arrives, but this time I spent 5 long rainy days on the Island looking into family history matters (more here for the curious) and mainly browsing drenched flora and fauna (pictures here for wildflower nerds!). Anyway never one to give up on resolving a project I did cycle down to the Southern end of the Island to see Breachacha Castle apparently one of the spots that the great pair stayed during the 10 days they were stuck on Coll due to inclement weather ... I might even have to get my well thumbed 'Journey to the Western Isles' out for a re-read of the relevant section.

Maurice Bishop, smocked

Smocking-but not as we know it

Today I finally knuckled down to some (dress) making, something I have a love / hate relationship with ever since the hell-and-back 10 day lock-in when Nina and I had to make our Tudor costumes for our last film. Let's draw a veil over just how long it took to get even the basics right for 1578 - well, all I can say is you try and design a fitted bodice without darts or lycra....
So - back to Exmoor National Dress - this lovely print on canvas donated to the project by Exmoor painter Maurice Bishop appeared simply as an Elvis-style cape at Dunster Show but I thought I'd better explore other treatments, so attempted my first bit of smocking with it this afternoon...
I think it's rather too stiff but nevertheless it's an interesting effect...

Nina, TB and I

RIP Tomas Bata

My journalist brother texted me the sad news today of Tomas Bata's death at 93. If you have been on the dark side of the moon for the last 5 years you may not know that Mr Bata- the Czech Republic's Bill Gates slash Henry Ford - was at the centre of our Anglo-Czech road movie 'Bata-ville: We are not afraid of the future".
Our passengers and us got to meet the charming and wise Mr Bata - in fact Nina and I gatecrashed his 90th birthday celebrations in Prague Castle - which he took very well. I think it was the uniforms.
There's a good obituary here.