Head to Gensing Gardens this February to take part in a new project that celebrates St Leonards-on-Sea’s ’secret’ park – hidden from view yet running alongside London Road. Theatre company ExploreTheArch thinks it’s a green space that has come into its own since Lockdown#1. Director Gail Borrow has commissioned an interactive exploration of the trees that have breathed life into the town since 1872. The trees include wise old oaks, a weeping beech, wingnut, ginkgo, foxglove trees – and a young mulberry tree planted by the local Bahá’i community.

Ruby Colley doing some recording

Hear My Tree is a project led by violinist and composer, Ruby Colley. She is working with one of the ExploreTheArch mentees,  media student, Jac Holt. Ruby asks you to get your phone out to record the sound of your favourite tree. Listening to trees and the human relationship with trees is a central theme in Ruby’s work.  

Ruby says, “Hear My Tree is an opportunity to engage in active listening and to connect to the wonderful trees that occupy Gensing Gardens. The recordings will allow me to create a soundscape that includes a sense of time and space as well as including people’s personal reflections of the trees themselves.”

When you make the recording, don’t worry about the surrounding noises in the park – the sound of wind, rain, wildlife and people will add to the ambience. In your recording, please include a short chat about why you are drawn to your particular tree in the gardens and send as a MP3 or .wav file to [email protected]. If you are using your phone, the voice memo option for recording will be fine.

Ruby will create a new musical composition from these offerings which will be featured as one of the ATownExploresABook21 festival projects in April, honouring Edward Lear’s close relationship with nature. This year’s 150th anniversary of Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets almost coincides with the formation of Gensing Gardens. Lear was a regular visitor to St Leonards and Hastings and may well have wandered through Gensing Wood, which became Gensing Gardens in 1872 – it’s not impossible that some of the lyrics to The Owl and the Pussy-Cat came to him as he walked here!

Erica Smith, the festival Community Co-ordinator is gearing up for ATownExploresABook21 by refreshing interest in the We Love Gensing Gardens Facebook group. She says: “Gensing Gardens is an essential green space for people living in the neighbourhood in flats without gardens. Over the last year I have met people in the gardens for coffee, had a (socially distanced) birthday picnic and a Christmas Day glass of cava and smoked salmon on a bench with a friend. I also love watching people use the ping-pong table and hearing the tawny owl that hoots from one of the trees. 

“Whilst we cannot organise group events for this year’s festival, we will be encouraging people to explore the special spots in St Leonards on their own and in their bubbles. We’re really looking forward to people sharing the sounds of their favourite trees!”

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